One of the frustrations for British Columbians who enjoy the great outdoors during a pandemic lockdown was hearing provincial health officer Bonnie Henry telling people to get outside for exercise while provincial parks, beaches and and some regional parks were shut down.
So the BC Outdoor Recreation Council executive director Louise Pedersen was thrilled to hear the B.C. government announce Wednesday that provincial parks will reopen for day use in mid-May.
Provincial campgrounds will reopen in June, provided COVID-19 cases continue to decline or remain low.
"I am thrilled," Pedersen said. "I think the outdoor recreation community was really hoping there would be some news at the press conference about the reopening of parks and also rec sites and trails.
"If transmission rates continue to remain low, then we'll start to see a more broadly reopening of parks and recreation sites and trails, along with campgrounds. That's really great news, as we're going into summer."
After all provincial parks were closed, Pedersen wrote the provincial government warning that closing parks would shrink the availability of outdoor spaces, which could end up doing what public health officials were trying to avoid: concentrating too many people in limited spaces.
Provincial parks and campgrounds were originally scheduled to reopen April 30, but the date was pushed back to May 31, after a public health emergency declaration was extended. Parks Canada likewise extended a closure on national parks until May 31.
Even though parks and campgrounds are expected to reopen, Premier John Horgan urged British Columbians not to travel too far from home to visit them.
"Some BC Parks will be open in time for the Victoria long weekend," Horgan said. "Let's enjoy that, but let's stay close to home. This is not the time for a road trip to another community for a hike or a holiday. If you have a provincial park in your area, by all means visit. Do not travel great distances."