The gates were unlocked at the parking lot of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park Thursday for the first time since early April.
May 14 marks the first day of the reopening of B.C. provincial parks, part of the province’s gradual restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a step towards more relaxed, warm-weather pandemic protocols that many Vernonites have been eagerly waiting for. Mere hours after the park reopened, Steve Latimer was already setting out for his second bike ride of the day.
“I was here for when the park opened and did a ride, went home and caught my breath and then my son wanted to go for a ride too, so here we are again,” he said.
Latimer and his six-year-old son, Matthew, rely on outdoor spaces where they can feel confident that keeping their distance won’t be an issue.
“It’s hard because my wife and I both have elderly parents that aren’t in the greatest of health, so we have to keep our distance,” he said.
On Wednesday Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reminded British Columbians about the rules going forward as the province gets ready to enter phase two of the pandemic response over the May long weekend.
The rule of thumb to keep in mind, Henry said, is “fewer faces, bigger places.”
Latimer says B.C.’s large expanses of park space are as good a place as any to keep one’s distance.
“It’s a good place for people to be together without gathering,” Latimer said. “There’s enough space here that you can get together with a group of people and you can maintain that distance and still be safe, but not be isolated, so I think it’s good for mental health in that way.”
Not all agree with the timing of the reopening. Eugen Suciu is glad to be hitting the bike trails, but worries about others congregating.
“To be honest I didn’t expect they would open so soon,” said Suciu. “I still think it’s a bit too soon. I’m not complaining about it because we will social distance, but some people won’t.”
Suciu’s cycling partner, Mara Boaru, said she agrees with the timing of the reopening of parks, viewing places like Kal Lake Provincial Park as the best options for outdoor social distancing.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “It minimizes the need to go and congregate in non-park areas which people have been doing anyway, so why not open?”
Others urge people to be mindful of wildlife while flooding back into the parks. Maya Bandy and her family live near Kal Lake Park and say they’ve seen more black bears and cubs from their porch than usual this year, and believe it’s because there haven’t been people around to disturb their peace and quiet.
“Because the parks have been closed the animals have come further into the park than they normally would, and stayed longer,” Bandy said.
On Thursday morning Bandy put up signs around the parking lot with information from the BC Parks website.
For more information on the reopening of B.C. provincial parks, visit bcparks.ca.