National parks closed to vehicle traffic

Campers are encouraged to take advantage of the hiking trails and wildlife viewing when planning their summer trips. (Parks Canada/Submitted)

Parks Canada has stepped up its closures in its efforts to encourage Canadians to stay home.

On Tuesday, the federal government agency announced it would close its parks and historic sites to vehicle traffic until further notice.

Parks Canada had previously suspended visitor services and closed its facilities on March 19. “Anything with a door on it” would be closed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time.

In a statement released Tuesday, Parks Canada said that “despite the suspension of visitor services and closure of facilities … high visitation levels have occurred in a number of parks leading to public safety and health concerns, as well as increased risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

“To reduce the number of visitors at Parks Canada places and to minimize risks to visitors and employees, Parks Canada is building on actions taken last week and is now temporarily suspending all motor vehicle access by visitors at all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas effective 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, until further notice.”

Parks Canada said the measure was aimed at “significantly reducing” visitation and respects the advice of public health experts to stay home and avoid public gatherings.”

The measure means highways and roadways which pass through Parks Canada will remain open, but all visitor parking facilities and associated services are closed, as are trails, washrooms and camping facilities, including backcountry camping.

‘We are asking all Canadians to respect these restrictions,” the agency said.

Highway maintenance, snow removal, fire response, dam operations and water management on historic waterways will continue.

Indigenous traditional activities will continue, but local services are limited. Residents of townsites, such as Waskesiu, will be allowed access, but those with recreational properties within national parks “are strongly encouraged to stay home,” Parks Canada wrote.

“To be clear, Parks Canada is asking Canadians to stay home. Anyone considering a visit to a Parks Canada location, including those in urban areas, should cancel their plans as vehicle access for the purposes of visitor use will be suspended until further notice. We ask that visitors support Canada’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 and cancel any non-essential travel. “