Coldstream residents can get back out in some local parks and green spaces soon.
Changes could be implemented in mid-May to lift or modify restrictions, as the Provincial Health Officer announced April 17 British Columbia has flattened the COVID-19 curve.
In response to these statements, the District of Coldstream has developed a phased approach for reopening its parks and public spaces while observing a few guidelines.
The first phase would include all park green spaces, including the cemetery, all of which have been closed in the district since March 23.
“We put the brakes on pretty quick when we saw this coming,” Mayor Jim Garlick said.
The initial openings, which will be continually assessed, do not include beaches, boat launches, playgrounds, tennis courts or the skate park.
All equipment and facilities in the parks will remain closed due to high-touch points and an inability to keep enough distance between individuals.
“I realize that the message from the province has been to go outside, but we also need to keep in mind the need to socially distance and allow everyone an opportunity,” Garlick said, as many of Coldstream’s parks are in residential areas and when large number of people are using them it negatively impacts people living in the area.
Many of those who have been restricted access to these local amenities haven’t taken the closures very well.
“A lot of the complaints I’ve been getting aren’t from Coldstream residents, they’re from Vernon residents looking for a place to go,” Garlick said.
Coldstream has many destination parks, used by people throughout the region.
“This is rarely a concern, but with the COVID-19 pandemic calling for the need to social distancing and avoid crowding residents brought up concerns around parking and use of parks.”
With boating season on board, the launch closures are especially hard for water enthusiasts (although Okanagan Lake launches are open).
The Kekuli Bay boat launch, as well as Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, were closed by the province on April 8.
Coldstream also made the decision to close the Kalavista Road boat launch. Otherwise, Garlick said there could be lineups onto Kal Road.
“If you’ve been up to the landfill and seen the issues around the lineups there and people getting upset then you’ll understand.”
While lake access points in Coldstream won’t be opening quite yet, places like Middleton and Creekside Parks will be some of the first to open.
The openings will follow guidelines to respect the health and safety of employees residents and park users, maintaining proper physical distancing and prohibiting the gatherings of no more than 50 people.
Parking lots that are currently closed will remain closed until further notice. The district wants to encourage the use of parks, but said that, “if you need a car, you are going too far.”
“We don’t want people driving into our residential neighbourhoods to access facilities (including the Okanagan Rail Trail),” Coldstream chief administrative officer Trevor Seibel said in a statement.
If park users gather in groups and do not follow social distancing orders, the district may close these parks in the future.
“It’s just making people realize that they need to share as well,” said Garlick, who is hopeful that some normalcy will be achieved sooner than later.
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