Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks

More than half of Canada’s national parks — including Banff in Alberta, Pacific Rim in British Columbia and Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia — are to reopen June 1.

Minister of Environment Jonathan Wilkinson says 29 of the 48 national parks will open for day use, and there will be access to washrooms.

“It’s an opportunity for folks, particularly those who live reasonably close to national parks, to be able to get out in nature in a manner that can allow physical distancing,” he told The Canadian Press.

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wilkinson said parks such as Banff, Jasper and Waterton in Alberta will open day-use areas and trails to visitors.

In Banff, the town and many of its businesses have been preparing to reopen on June 1.

“This has been devastating for our town that relies solely on tourism as our economy,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen, adding it was difficult to ask visitors to stay away.

“We wanted to make sure we had protocols in place to make it safe not only for our community, but also for our visitors.”

The town’s council decided Monday to close two blocks of its often-crowded main street, Banff Avenue, to vehicle traffic to make more room for pedestrians.

“If … people need to line up to get into one of our businesses on Banff Avenue, there will be space,” said Sorensen. “There will be space for some outdoor patio seating and some outdoor retailing opportunities and there will still be space for outdoor pedestrian flow.”

Banff is the country’s busiest national park, with about four million visitors annually.

READ MORE: Canada’s national parks, historic sites to be at least partially reopened by June 1

Other national parks reopening June 1 include Riding Mountain in Manitoba and Grasslands in Saskatchewan.

Wilkinson said some parks, including many in Northern Canada, will remain closed to reduce travel to areas sensitive to the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s also some of the parks that are co-managed with First Nations, like Haida Gwaii, where the First Nation has asked that the park not be reopened,” he said.

Camping, he said, will still not be allowed in national parks until at least June 21.

“Camping is going to be something that a lot of Canadians are going to look at, given that travelling outside the country is going to be particularly challenging,” said Wilkinson.

The British Columbia Parks website crashed soon after it opened summer bookings for provincial campsites Monday, while Alberta Parks saw nearly 40,000 campsite bookings on its first day of offering rebookings.

READ MORE: BC Parks reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Many provincial governments have reopened camping for June 1, but are only allowing their own residents to reserve spots to prevent non-essential travel.

Wilkinson said Parks Canada will have protocols in place once they allow camping, but the agency doesn’t plan to put in restrictions by province.

“We are a national agency that belongs to all people who live in this country,” he said. “We will be telling people that they need to be paying attention to the travel guidance of their respective province or territory.”

Some governments have restricted travel in and out, while others have asked people not to travel to their jurisdictions.

Wilkinson said there could be restrictions on a park-by-park basis.

“In some cases, we’ll be opening more things because we think it’s set up in a way that can accommodate physical distancing,” he said. “In others, where there are some … trails that are extremely busy, we may not open those because we can’t allow for safe usage.”

Other possibilities could include setting limits on how many people can visit at a time or closing parking lots at popular areas.

Wilkinson said he realizes Canadians have been through a lot in recent months.

“Many have stuck very, very close to home,” he said. “One of the key things for us is trying to give Canadians opportunities to get out, as summer comes, to enjoy nature.

“It’s part of what Canada is for most Canadians.”

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusParks Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read