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National parks gradually reopening, focusing on education and safety

Parks Canada will reopen Banff National Park on June 1 and while Albertans will be able to access some trails, day-use areas and green spaces, visitor services and facilities will remain closed
20200318 Parks Closure COVID 19 0013
The gates to Banff National Park after the federal government announced Parks Canada is shutting down all visitor services in national parks across the country, including Banff, to help combat the global COVID-19 pandemic on March 18. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BANFF – Banff National Park is reopening June 1.

But what does that mean for Albertans?

As of Monday, it means access to some trails, day-use areas and green spaces, but the closure of visitor services and facilities remains.

During a press conference, Dave McDonough, Field Unit Superintendent, Banff Field Unit said the Banff National Park east gates will be reopening, while backcountry camping, the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff Upper Hot Springs, and the day-use area for Moraine Lake Road remain closed.

Visitor services from Lake Louise to Banff National Park will also remain closed with phone and online options.  

"Currently there is no timelines for the resumption of services in Banff [National Park]," McDonough said.

Focusing on communication, education and safety, McDonough said Parks Canada wants to set up a situation where Albertans can exercise shared responsibility of following the proper health procedures, which the provincial government has set at keeping at least two-metre distance from people outside your household, or cohort family.

"The good news is that we continue to see downward trends across the province in active cases," Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a press conference last week.

"While it is too early to see the full impact of the relaunch, so far our case numbers have held steady."

Parks Canada said while officials will promote education, the federal agency will have more people on the ground to help with additional enforcement such as restricted parking – but that communication is also key.

"Our focus is on communication ... we want visitors to understand," McDonough said.

For Albertan's own safety, officials said visitors should not try access locations that are closed.

As for those itching to get camping in the national parks, they will have to wait at least another couple of weeks as Parks Canada officials said all camping will remain closed until at least June 21. The federal government will then assess whether and how these services might resume. All existing reservations up until June 21 will be automatically cancelled and refunded.

In the meantime, McDonough said Parks will monitor and adapt the reopening as the phased approach is unrolled.

"We will look at it and adjust as we go," McDonough said.

Group activities and public events are still prohibited until further notice.

Visit the Parks Canada website at pc.gc.ca for more information. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had attributed the quotes to Parks Canada public relations and communications officer David Dunbar. 



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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