BANFF – Parks Canada is shutting down public access to national parks, including the backcountry, day-use areas and trails, to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Effective Wednesday (March 25), the federal agency will be temporarily suspending all motor vehicle access to national parks, heritage sites and marine conservation areas.
Parks Canada officials say this means that all parking lots, vehicle services, trails, washrooms, day-use facilities, showers, visitor centres, and all camping facilities, including oTENTiks, yurts and backcountry camping, are closed until further notice.
“You need to stay at home, respect social distancing practices and avoid public gatherings,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal minister environment and climate change responsible for Parks Canada.
“Anyone considering a visit to a Parks Canada location should cancel their trips.”
Highways and roadways that pass through Parks Canada places will remain open.
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Parks Canada will limit its activities to basic critical operations.
Wilkinson said the good weather on the weekend drew many people to spend time outdoors in national parks.
“We saw visitation rates soar. This, however, is an issue as our trails and day-use areas were suddenly quite crowded,” he said.
“To be clear: this is unsafe. It increases the risk of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and that is why Parks Canada is immediately implementing new measures to address this concern.”
Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen welcomed the move.
“I think this is an appropriate step to take at this time,” she said.
“I would say it will help our town because people won’t be coming from other parts of Alberta to spend a day and using the the national parks as a getaway – and that means less traffic in the vicinity of the town.”