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Camping in national parks suspended until at least May 31

“These restrictions will not be in place forever,” Alberta Medical Chief Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. “At this time we are not yet at that point where we can start easing off.”
20200318 Parks Closure COVID 19 0013
The gates to Banff National Park after the federal government announced Parks Canada is shutting down all visitor services in national parks across the country, including Banff, to help combat the global COVID-19. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

ALBERTA – Parks Canada has suspended camping until May 31.

In a Wednesday (April 15) morning announcement, the federal agency said in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 Parks Canada has suspended all camping, group activities, and events in all national parks, national historic sites, heritage canals and national marine conservation areas until at least the end of May. 

“The Government of Canada is asking Canadians to stay home and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Parks Canada is taking these additional measures to help keep people safe. Like all Canadians, I love our national parks and historic sites, but at this time we must all continue to do our part to flatten the curve, look out for one another, and make choices that will help reduce the pressure on our health care system,” Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada said in a statement. 

This includes campgrounds and backcountry camping in Elk Island National Park, Waterton Lakes Nation Park, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.

The COVID-19 coronavirus first hit the province at the beginning of March. As of April 14 there have been 1,870 positive cases and 48 deaths.

Earlier this week, officials said the province has found success in containing the spread of the virus, because Albertans have followed the health measures that have been put in place. Alberta declared a public health emergency on March 17 and has since ordered non-essential businesses to shutdown their storefronts while also limiting public gathering to a maximum of 15 people. 

Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said health measures could be in place for many months to come but active discussions have begun on what kinds of actions could be eased when a trend of declining numbers over several weeks takes place. She warned that if the health measures were released too soon it could undo all of the work that has gone into flattening the curve and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

“These restrictions will not be in place forever,” Hinshaw said. “At this time we are not yet at that point where we can start easing off.”

Albertans will not be able to book new camping reservations in National Parks until at least June 1, with all prior reservations to be automatically cancelled and refunded in full.

Parks Canada also said the current suspension of visitor services, vehicle access by visitors, as well as the temporary closure of visitor facilities, will remain in place until further notice. 

Officials said they will continue to deliver service critical to Albertans and Canadians, including highway maintenance, fire response, dam operations and water management on historic waterways, avalanche control, among others.

“These measures are necessary to support the national effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce health and safety risks to all Canadians,” the statement read.

“While the Agency looks forward to resuming services, anyone planning a visit should be aware that these measures may extend beyond May 2020 and any resumption of services will take time or be incremental in nature.”

– with files from Chelsea Kemp


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