An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE TIME HAS COME to reopen B.C.’s provincial parks.
Not because we should be jumping the gun on ending the anti-pandemic battle but because closing them isn’t working.
More than a thousand provincial parks have been closed until further notice since April 8, and all camping is banned until the end of May unless the provincial government changes its mind.
The reason for the closure is that people weren’t obeying social distancing rules. They still aren’t. People are using the parks anyway, risking fines of $115.
The cost of a walk in the park.
The Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. is urging the government to reopen them, saying the official closure is causing crowding at local municipal parks, which will result in their closure, too. The council contends that this will result in more and more people ignoring closures, and there aren’t enough resources to enforce them.
Furthermore, says the council, getting outdoors is essential to physical and mental health, a stance backed up by none other than Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Enforcement is definitely an issue. Kamloops closed Hillside Stadium to walkers for a few weeks but re-opened it last week with what are being called “park ambassadors” keeping an eye open for social-distancing violations.
Putting staffing resources into watching parks will stretch already desperate budgets at the local level and it’s easy to see the challenges of trying to police social distancing in big provincial parks.
Combine that with the threat of widespread resistance to closure and the health imperatives of outdoor exercise, and re-opening provincial parks is the only logical way to go.
Limit hours, allow hiking but no camping, urge compliance, police it to whatever degree is possible, and rely on people’s common sense, but reopen them.
I’m Mel Rothenburger.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.