Just before the Easter long weekend (April 8) B.C. announced the closure of provincial parks until May 31 for COVID-19 protection.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) has temporarily closed all Recreations Sites with camping facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, BC Parks has temporarily closed all provincial parks.
The province also recently announced a ban on camping and motorized recreation in the Koocanusa Recreation Strategy Area for the entirety of the spring and summer.
A spokesperson for FLNRORD told the Townsman/Bulletin in an email that accessing the backcountry through a provincial park is not allowed, since all provincial parks are closed.
People are however, allowed to camp on vacant Crown Land for up to 14 days (if there are no designated closures, you can comply with the orders and guidance provided by the provincial health officer).
Boat launches within recreation sites that contain campsites are not accessible to the public. However, boat launches in recreation sites that don’t have campsites can still be used.
People are still permitted to use B.C. Crown land for recreational activities subject to any specific closures, or local or regulatory restrictions or rules that are normally in place. FLNRORD urges the public to use caution when engaging in activities that could result in injuries to avoid putting additional stress on the health-care system.
“During the current pandemic, we strongly encourage the public to avoid non-essential travel outside their communities, especially for recreation,” said the spokesperson for FLNRORD. “People who visit Crown land must do so in a safe and responsible manner. Their activities may not result in negative environmental, social, economic, health or safety impacts.”
FLNRORD adds that campers must abide by all provincial laws and regulations, including those related to campfire use, opening burning restrictions, wildlife attractants, litter, waste disposal and environmental damage.
The same goes for trees, campers may not cut down or otherwise damage trees (dead or alive) and may not build structures on Crown land without proper authority to do so, says FLNRORD.
“Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has indicated that the next few weeks are critical in managing this pandemic, so it’s more important than ever to continue to follow public health guidelines and practice physical distancing to prevent further spread,” said FLNRORD in an email to the Townsman. “The Provincial Health Officer has been very clear: now is the time to maintain physical distancing to help bend the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you can stay home, it is crucial you do so.”