Parks and trails will stay open in the Greater Vernon area despite the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (GVAC) is encouraging residents to stick to their own neighbourhoods.
“The best choice is for residents to walk, run or cycle in their own neighbourhoods,” GVAC chair Akbal Mund said.
“We have a large network of trails in the Greater Vernon area,” he said. “Instead of visiting the busiest trails, like the Okanagan Rail Trail, we encourage you to discover something new and that is preferably in your neighbourhood.”
The question of whether or not to close local parks came up during the GVAC meeting Wednesday, April 8, as the weather warms and Vernon heads into a long weekend to celebrate Easter.
GVAC committee members noted groups of people have been seen gathering at the Greater Vernon Athletic Park in Coldstream, despite the facility’s closure and provincial orders to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres.
After the GVAC meeting, fences and closure signs have been placed at the park to further enforce the closure, the Regional District of North Okanagan said.
“We all absolutely must maintain physical distancing while using parks and trails,” Mund said. “Our decision to keep them open to the public does not mean we are not prepared to close them if people are clearly and consistently violating these measures.”
The RDNO is also reminding drivers to be extra vigilant as the number of pedestrians and cyclists increase.
GVAC’s decisions to keep parks open for now applies to the RDNO-owned portion of the rail trail — which is still under erosion work Monday through Friday — Grey Canal Trail, Kal Crystal Waters Trail, Middleton Mountain Trail, Swan Lake Nature Reserve and BX Creek Trail.
The City of Vernon announced April 8 that it’s expecting an increase in park visitors over the long weekend and new bicycle ambassadors donning green T-shirts will patrol Polson Park, Kin Beach Park and Marshall Fields to encourage residents to maintain distance.
“If you come across people from another household, maintain at least two metres between each other,” the city said in a statement. “Please do not gather in groups.”
In the District of Coldstream, Mayor Jim Garlick emphasized all parks including parking areas and Kal Beach are closed.
“The rail trail parking lot and surrounding area at the intersection of West Kal and Kickwillie Roads are closed to trail users,” said Garlick. “The athletic park at Okanagan College is closed. Kalamalka Provincial Park, including parking areas within the District of Coldstream, is closed.”
Like in the City of Vernon, Coldstream residents are encouraged to walk trails and roads in their neighbourhoods while respecting social distancing.
Drivers are requested to pay extra attention and drive safely with the increased number of pedestrians and cyclists on roads. Respect speed limits and give other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists wide berth when passing.