BANFF – Parks Canada is shutting down all visitor services in national parks across the country, including Banff, to help combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective Thursday (March 19), Parks Canada is temporarily suspending all visitor services in all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas until further notice.
In Banff, that includes the Cave and Basin, Upper Hot Springs and visitor centres, among others.
“What that means for our parks is that pretty much anything with a door will be closed,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference Tuesday (March 17).
Parks Canada will limit its activities to basic critical operations and many staff will work from home.
Visitor facilities will be closed temporarily, including washrooms and day-use facilities. Some conservation activities will also be temporarily suspended, including projects with external researchers.
While visitor services are temporarily suspended, Parks Canada will continue to deliver a number of critical services, including highway management and snow removal, fire response, as well as avalanche forecasting and control, among others.
“Visitors may use front country and backcountry areas, as well as accessible green spaces,” stated a news release.
“Search and rescue services may be limited. Visitors should exercise additional caution at this time and avoid activities with safety risks.”
There are a number of tourism businesses and operations within Banff National Park, such as ski hills as well as commercial accommodations.
“These operators are valued partners and provide important services to visitors,” stated the release.
“They may continue to operate and clients should check with them before visiting to ensure that there has been no change to their services.”
In addition, Parks Canada will cease taking new reservations until April 30, 2020.
“All existing reservations for this period will be refunded in full,” according to Parks Canada.
“In addition, the agency is currently developing an approach to honour passes, in light of travel restrictions and closures related to COVID-19. Details will be communicated in due course.”
Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change responsible for Parks Canada, said the government’s top priority is the health and safety of Canadians at this critical time.
“We are doing everything we can to contain the novel coronavirus and reduce the burden on our healthcare system,” he said.
“We all look forward to resuming normal operations at Parks Canada places, but for now we must follow the advice of public health experts and work together to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
A complete list of Parks Canada places that are closed and the parameters of these closures will be available on the Parks Canada website soon. Visit pc.gc.ca regularly for updates.
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