BANFF – In an effort to discourage those from surrounding communities from spending their long weekend in the mountains, the Town of Banff is taking extra precautions.
The Town of Banff will have educational public health check stops at both entrances this weekend for the Easter holiday, Friday to Sunday (April 10-12).
“The reason we’ve chosen to do educational check stops is to make sure that folks that are driving into our community are aware of all the health authority requirements as well as recommendations that the health authority has prescribed,” said Silvio Adamo, Banff’s director of emergency management.
“One of our primary objectives within our emergency coordination centre for the Town of Banff is that we assist the health authority in any way we can and that means flattening the curve, helping them with facilities, messaging and this we see as an opportunity for us to help get that message out to flatten the curve.”
The Town announced its educational public health check stops Thursday (April 9) with Mayor Karen Sorensen taking to Twitter with the message.
“We love our neighbours from Calgary, but this long weekend, we continue to urge you to please stay at home where you’re safe,” said Sorensen.
“Travelling does create an extra risk of contracting COVID-19 and if there was anywhere an accident on a trail or in the community, it would divert the attention of our medical professionals from battling the virus.”
The check stops will be at the Mount Norquay Road entrance to Banff, as well as at Banff Avenue Road at Compound Road, according to a news release from the Town.
Residents of the valley, essential services such as the transportation of food, trades, local transit and those requiring essential services like accessing a gas station while travelling will be allowed to proceed into the town.
The check stops will be staffed by RCMP, Banff's community peace officers and firefighters. According to the release, they will inform visitors seeking a day-trip in the townsite about public health directives and encourage them to return home.
Adamo said the intention is not to ticket people, but to educate them and encourage them to return home if they’re entering Banff for non-essential reasons.
“We see this as an opportunity to help to get that message out to flatten that curve and it is critical that everyone do their part here to stay at home, stay safe, only travel when it's essential, and so we’re trying to push that messaging,” he said.
“We’ve always tried to approach things from an educational perspective first, so that we’re trying to educate people to lead them into doing the right thing and then, if necessary, enforce. That’s why we’ve chosen to do these educational check stops and educate at this point.
“This will also give us an opportunity to collect data on the folks that are coming into town, especially this being the first long weekend of the season.”
The release said personnel at the checkpoints will stop vehicles in order to ascertain why they are in Banff. If they aren’t local residents, the occupants of the vehicle would then be provided information but not denied access to the townsite. Adamo said they would, however, be encouraged to “do the right thing.”
“I think we’ll ask or advise them [to turn around]. There won’t be any mandatory turn arounds, but we’re hoping people who may have been confused or weren’t aware of the recommendations [by] the health authority has taken our information and do turn around and go back to their community,” he said.
The announcement comes a day after one of Banff's oldest hotels announced its temporary closure.
"We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the doors of our hotel. Effective Friday, April 10, 2020 at noon, this also includes all guest services, as well as overnight stays, fitness centres & health clubs, food & beverage offerings, spas and event spaces. This certainly isn’t goodbye, it’s farewell for now," the Fairmont Banff Springs wrote in a press release.
The closure followed closures at other hotels in the area, including the Rimrock Resort Hotel, which announced its suspension of operations on March 24.
While both Sorensen and Adamo indicated a love and appreciation for our surrounding communities, the messaging from both officials was clear – now is not the time to leisurely visit Banff.
“I think we want to make sure that our regional partners in Calgary that call Banff their backyard, we appreciate them supporting us – they’re a strong part of our economy – but we also want to make sure they know that this time, during this COVID crisis, that they need to follow the health authorities direction and stay in their own community, in their own backyard and do their part to flatten the curve," said Adamo.
“Parks Canada is a big partner of ours and they’ve obviously stepped up and our sending that same message, encouraging only essential traffic … We all essentially have to do our part here.”
Follow RMOToday.com's COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.