After months of closure thanks to COVID-19, the North Shore’s parks and playgrounds are set to reopen.
The gates on the roads leading to Mount Seymour and Cypress provincial parks will be opened on June 1, the province has confirmed.
“That’s fantastic because we’ve been really missing access to our favourite local parks,” said Jay MacArthur, board member with the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. “I was backcountry skiing up there the day before they closed and I’ve been missing them ever since.”
MacArthur said the first order of business on his agenda for Monday is to climb Mount Seymour.
The three North Shore municipalities meanwhile are planning for the gradual reopening of most of their playgrounds, the details of which will be announced soon, according to Donna Powers, District of West Vancouver spokeswoman.
Also, Metro Vancouver is working with the District of North Vancouver on restoring parking at Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and the Lower Seymour Conservation reserve.
After a relatively quiet spring, North Shore Rescue is now bracing for a busy summer as hikers flock to the two parks where at least two-thirds of their rescue calls originate.
Search manager Doug Pope said he felt some trepidation when he heard the news about Cypress and Seymour on Tuesday.
“It will be a more difficult coming few months for us,” he said.
Carrying out a rescue during a pandemic is much more difficult and risky for the volunteers, Pope said, so North Shore Rescue is asking for people to be more cautious than ever in the backcountry.
“We’re asking people to be very conservative in their hiking on the North Shore. So, taking routes that they are experienced in, are well prepared for and doing their research by going to websites like adventuresmart.ca,” he said. “We’re asking people to do their part to reduce our call volume by being prepared and reducing their risk to becoming one of our clients.”
There is still snow on the trails above the 1,000-metre mark, Pope said, and the majority of calls this time of year are for people who have slipped and injured themselves because they aren’t wearing crampons or microspikes.
Seymour brings in more than a million visitors per year, according to the ministry, and Cypress almost two million.
Speaking to the media last month, Dr. Bonnie Henry described the risk of catching COVID-19 outdoors as “infinitesimally small.”
“The risk that somebody who is sick is spreading this virus from coughing or sneezing outside and you walk by them very quickly, even if it is within six feet, is negligible,” she said.
Joffre Lakes and Garibaldi provincial parks remain closed.