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Water Today Title April 14, 2024

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Updated 2020/5/28 - Posted 2020/5/15
Holiday water report 2020


By Gillian Ward

After months of sheltering in, Canadians are more than ready to get outdoors and enjoy the parks and conservation areas of our nation. WaterToday reports on the opening of National, Provincial and Territorial parks for the 2020 season.

In general, physical distancing remains the call to action for all Canadians. Getting out to the parks is no exception, Canadians are urged to continue to exercise diligence in giving one another a safe and secure 6ft bubble.

Boat on lake
Photo credit: Bonnie Newton

We are encouraged to keep our recreational wanderings of short distance, visiting parks nearest our residence, within our home province or territory, and continue to limit the sizes of our gatherings as per the public health order in effect. It is also advisable to bring potable water as facilities are limited in some parks.

Note that regional and provincial/territorial travel restrictions, requirements for out-of-province self isolation take precedence over planned park openings. Be prepared and check the travel restrictions that may prevent access to your chosen park before you head out.

PARKS CANADA - Limited openings beginning June 1

    “As we all continue to do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19, access to nature and the outdoors is important for our health and well-being. The Government of Canada will begin gradually re-opening national parks, national historic sites and national wildlife areas across the country for limited visitor day use beginning on June 1. They will remain closed through the May long weekend while we prepare. Our priority remains the health and safety of Canadians and it will be critical that we all respect the guidance of public health experts, avoid non-essential travel and enjoy these special places responsibly. By working together, we can help keep our families, friends, and neighbours healthy and safe.” The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

What this means for park visitors, access to some trails, day use areas, and green spaces, and some access for recreational boating, as well as the gradual resumption of some key field-based ecological and cultural resource protection activities. Environment and Climate Change Canada will also gradually resume some operations at selected national wildlife areas, including conservation activities and day use access for visitors on June 1, 2020.

According to the ParksCanada Covid-19 notice, highways and roadways which pass through Parks Canada places will remain open and maintained as usual, including emergency response for fire, management of dams and historic waterways, avalanche control, among others.

ParksCanada table

*Facilities include public washrooms, picnic areas, playgrounds, firewood supplies, garbage and recycling bins etc
**Services includes visitor centres, water stations, food storage, interpretive centres, interactive signage and more. See the section of the report for the province of territory you are visiting for more details.

ONTARIO PARKS - Open for limited day use as of May 15

Six hundred and thirty-five Provincial Parks and conservation reserves are open for walking, hiking, biking and bird-watching, all free of charge for the remainder of May.

A spokesperson for Ontario Parks refers to the Covid-19 notice posted at https://www.ontarioparks.com/covid19 , “At this time, camping and other activities are not permitted at any provincial park or conservation reserve. All buildings and facilities including washrooms, water taps, campgrounds, backcountry campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds, and beaches continue to be closed.”

Before planning your trip, please visit www.ontarioparks.com/park-locator to check the status of your local provincial park, and make an effort to visit the park closest to where you reside.

Update 5/28/20 - Ontario Ministry of Environment spokesperson Gary Wheeler provided an emailed update following the limited opening of Ontario Parks the week May 11-15.

"We are seeing steady use across the province, with parks closer to city centres being busier than more remote parks, as we have been encouraging the public to stay local and visit the park closest to home. Ontarians seem eager to return to provincial parks as a way to get active and reconnect with nature."

"Generally, it appears that park visitors are taking health and safety precautions seriously when visiting provincial parks."

We’re counting on Ontarians to be responsible when enjoying our parks and to continue to follow all of the public health measures, including physical distancing, to do their part to minimize the risk to themselves and to others in their community by limiting travel and continuing to follow these rules when visiting Ontario Parks."

Available recreational activities continue to be limited to walking, hiking, biking, birdwatching, boating and paddling. At this time, camping and other activities are not permitted at any provincial park or conservation reserve. All buildings and facilities including water taps, campgrounds, backcountry campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds, and beaches continue to be closed.

Picnic shelters and group barbecues remain closed.

Boat launches are open with some exceptions where seasonal maintenance is required.

Over the next several weeks Ontario Parks’ staff will be conducting critical maintenance and other parks start-up procedures so that more recreational activities and facilities will be available when it is safe to do so.

Ontarians are reminded to carry their own hand sanitizer, extra water and other supplies on day trips to the park. Washrooms and picnic tables may be open in some locations, but they will not be regularly cleaned or disinfected.

Visit OntarioParks.com for up to date information on what services and facilities are available at the specific park closest to you.

QUÉBEC PARKS - Closed until further notice.

As of the time of this writing, Québec had no plan to re-open provincial parks.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR PARKS - No camping but beaches are open

Presently at Alert Level 4, NL parks are limited to the following: Parks (not including campgrounds) will be permitted to open with limited individual activities for which physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Outdoor recreational spaces should provide access to hand washing stations or hand sanitizer stations that are vandalism-proof, as appropriate.
  • Trash containers should be made available for discarding trash, tissues and personal protective equipment (e.g., masks and gloves), which may otherwise become a public health hazard.
  • All surfaces should be sanitized twice per day.
  • Trails that do not permit physical distancing of 2 metres should be one-directional with signage, where possible.
  • Employees must have access to gloves and sanitizing wipes, and are required to stay home if they are unwell or symptomatic.
  • Signage must be posted to caution about the risks of COVID-19.
  • Access to beaches is permitted as long as monitoring is provided to ensure appropriate physical distancing and to prohibit mass gatherings.

Activities/Services Not Permitted:
  • All in-park food and beverage services.
  • Activities that require contact, including team sports (football, basketball, hockey, soccer, volley ball, etc.).
  • All recreational facilities within the park must remain closed (swimming pools, picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, etc.)
  • All community events.
  • All public services, such as interpretation services, children’s programming and community-based programming.

According to to a spokesperson for the NL Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation "Under Alert Level 4 (as of May 11, 2020) - access to beaches is permitted as long as monitoring is provided to ensure appropriate physical distancing and to prohibit mass gatherings."

Newfoundland posts daily updates here https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/information-sheets-for-businesses-and-workplaces/guidance-for-parks/

NOVA SCOTIA PARKS - Trails open to the Public, no services, beaches closed.

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia Parks writes, “We understand many Nova Scotians and visitors are looking forward to outdoor adventures in our provincial parks this season. In this time of uncertainty, we need to make decisions that help people stay safe. Provincial parks and trails are available for the public to use at their own discretion, however, they are not serviced or maintained this time of year and people must adhere to public health guidelines and social distancing rules. Provincial beaches remain closed until further notice.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and guidance from public health officials and will take the steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of our visitors and employees.”

NEW BRUNSWICK PARKS - Camping opens May 15

“The tourism industry plays an important economic role in each region of the province. That is why we are pleased to be moving into a new phase of the recovery plan, which allows more services to be provided to New Brunswickers,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Bruce Fitch.

“All appropriate measures will be in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Services will be offered differently than before but, by following the Public Health directives, we will be able to enjoy again the wonders and beauty of our province while continuing to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

Provincial parks and attractions will reopen with limited services, no events, and no programming or co-ordinated activities. Public washrooms and private restaurants will be open, however events are cancelled for the season.

As borders remain closed for non-essential travel, these parks privileges and services are availahttps://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/thc/news/news_release.2020.05.0267.html


PEI remains in a state of emergency until May 31, 2020 with recreation considered non-essential travel that is not permitted. Borders remain closed to non-residents.

MANITOBA PARKS - Camping, beaches open as of May 4

Manitobans can begin camping as of May 4, as long as they bring their own sanitary supplies and pack out all refuse. Changes to seasonal pass fees and registration this year mean that only persons with a registered vehicle may obtain a Manitoba Parks seasonal pass in 2020.

One person may enter Park offices at a time, and all facilities and amenities are open, including beaches, showers as all visitors are required to maintain physical distancing. Group size is limited to 10 people, and should not include anyone outside of the immediate family or household, gathering in green spaces, trails or beaches.

Parks may be accessed by non-residents, but out-of-province visitors are required to self-isolate 14 days. Visitor centres and museums are expected to open later in the season.

SASKATCHEWAN PARKS - Open for camping June 1, beaches closed.

Campground reservations open May 4, with specific Parks booking as per schedule on line check the website www.tourismsaskatchewan.com/places-to-go/provincial-parks/Announcements.

Daily and seasonal camping opens June 1 at 50% capacity, meaning that alternating sites will be left vacant. Group sites are not available, public washroom facilities will be open to one household at a time, with public showers and laundry facilities, picnic areas, playgrounds and beaches remaining closed.

Non-residents with private cottages in the provincial parks are welcome, but are asked to limit their non-essential movements within the park. Non-residents will not be denied access to boat launches or private businesses.

As for services offered in the parks, swimming lessons are cancelled until further notice, enhanced disinfection at dump sites and water fill stations, as well as garbage cans will be practised by Park staff.

Travel restrictions in Northern Saskatchewan Administration District (NSAD) are in effect, with no unnecessary travel allowed. Non-residents of the NSAD are advised to check travel restrictions before setting out to their cottages and seasonal camp sites.

Update 5/28/20 - Travel Restriction for the North Saskatchewan Administration District has been lifted for all but the northwest. The Clearwater River and Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Wilderness Parks are closed due to the remaining travel restriction. All other Provincial Parks are open June 1 for overnight camping and limited services. Beaches remain closed in Saskatchewan Provincial Parks.

Public inquiries regarding the restriction of all non-critical travel into the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District (NSAD) can be directed to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency toll-free line at 1-855-559-5502, or call SaskTourism at 800-202-7070 for more information.

ALBERTA PARKS - Parking Lots and trails open as of May 1

Parking lots and staging areas in Provincial Parks are open as of May 1 for walking, biking or hiking in the Parks. Camping will not be available, public facilities and amenities will remain closed, as per the following guideline, www.alberta.ca/guidance-on-outdoor-activities.aspx.

Alberta residents are encouraged to plan outdoor recreational activities with one’s own household or “cohort family” (defined as one support household, committed to an exclusive cohort arrangement, for care of young children).

Gatherings are limited to 14 or less, and physical distancing is expected to be maintained at 2m. Albertans are reminded that communal meals involv shared equipment are not permitted. Games or activities involving shared equipment are not allowed.

Albertans are advised to don a covering over nose and mouth if physical distance cannot be maintained, along with an accounting for such contact (may use ABTraceTogether mobile contact tracing app).

BRITISH COLUMBIA PARKS - Limited openings starting May 14

An emailed statement from BC Parks, “We recognize the power nature has for improving our health and wellness, and we are pleased to welcome people back into most provincial parks, starting May 14.” Open in this sense means day trips, with trails, public washrooms and beaches in certain parks are accessible for the long weekend.

“We will also be reopening provincial campgrounds starting June 1, with the Discover Camping reservation system being back online on May 25.”

Be sure to check the BC Parks website for the details on the Park nearest you, as not all parks will be open, especially those parks that would normally draw the biggest crowds.

“Opening parks and campgrounds safely as part of B.C.’s restart plan, including following the guidance and direction of the Provincial Health Officer, means some closures will temporarily remain in place for specific parks or park areas, services and facilities.”

“We know it has been challenging and we want to thank everyone for their patience during these unprecedented times.”

“We need to ensure small communities are not overwhelmed by people who are ignoring advice to avoid non-essential travel. This is not the time for road trips or bucket list adventures. Visit a park close to home.” BC Parks http://bcparks.ca/covid-19/parks-affected/

YUKON PARKS - Trails accessible June 1

Eight territorial parks and twelve special management areas expected to open June 4 for walking/biking. Green spaces are open for recreational activities, with physical distancing and gathering limits, and any other mandated Covid-19 restrictions remaining in place inside Yukon Parks.

Visitors to Yukon Parks should take note:
  • Stairs, steps handrails are not disinfected
  • Parking, boat launches and interior roads for walking or biking will be accessible.

The following services and activities are NOT available in Yukon Parks:
  • Campsites, outhouses, picnic areas, garbage cans/recycle bins
  • Firepits and firewood bins
  • Playgrounds, beaches, docks
  • viewing platforms, decks, binoculars, and interactive signs.
  • Payment stations, kiosks
  • water pumps and water storage, food storage bins
From the guidance document posted at https://yukon.ca/en/news/parks-and-campgrounds-opening-delayed-until-june

“Please use significant caution engaging in any activities that could put you at risk of not following physical distancing or put you in a position that requires outside assistance.”

“Backcountry activities are strongly discouraged in order to keep rescue and safety resources available during this time. Yukoners are being asked to avoid popular recreation areas where physical distancing may not be possible or where people may find themselves in a gathering greater then 10 people.”

Yukoners are also reminded to remove all garbage when using trails and green spaces.

NUNAVUT PARKS - Closed until further notice.

NORTHWEST TERRITORY PARKS - Trails and beaches open May 15

Drew Williams, speaking on behalf of NT Parks, advises that walking/biking/hiking trails are open May 15 with limited services and facilities as follows:
  • the opening of camping in the parks is yet to be determined, expected mid to late June. Reservations for camping is currently not available, check for updates at the link below.
  • beaches and boat launches are open
  • sanitation (garbage cans) are accessible to the public and serviced
  • firewood is available
  • camp kitchens and picnic tables are available to the public.

Water supply in the parks is still to be determined. As such, washrooms and shower facilities are currently closed.

See the following for updates: https://www.nwtparks.ca/

“We know that families are eager to get outside and enjoy NWT Parks. I can assure you this decision was not made lightly, but ultimately the health and safety of our guests, staff, and contractors is our top priority. We look forward to the opening of our parks season at a later date.” Katrina Nokleby, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

NOTE: Following publication of this article, Yukon moved its opening date from June 1 to June 4. We have updated the article to reflect this change.

Sasakatchewan and Ontario updated information was added on 2020/5/28


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