Parks Canada closing all national parks and historic sites to vehicles due to COVID-19
BANFF -- As of 12:01 a.m. March 25, all visitor vehicle traffic will be barred from entering any of Canada's national parks or historic sites.
"You need to stay at home, respect social distancing practices and avoid public gatherings," said federal Environment and Parks Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
This comes after a spike of visitors in many of the parks, including Banff National Park last weekend.
"We saw visitation rates soar," Wilkinson said.
"This however is an issue, as our trails and day use areas were suddenly quite crowded. To be clear — this is unsafe."
Parks Canada said the move is intended to significantly reduce visitation and is in respect to the advice of public health experts to stay home and avoid public gatherings.
"The window to contain the spread of COVID-19 is short and we must all change our behaviours now to flatten the curve and reduce the burden on our health care system," said Wilkinson.
Highways and roadways which pass through Parks Canada parks and sites will remain open as commercial and through traffic will still be permitted, but no one will be able to stop anywhere inside the park.
The mayor for the Town of Banff applauded the decision made by Parks Canada.
"It’s the right thing to do and it will certainly help us," said Karen Sorensen.
"The access to the town of Banff is not closed."
Parks Canada added if you have any future plans to visit a national park, you should cancel them.
With less visitors now expected in the parks, Sorensen would not rule out closing hotels in town.
"In this moment, are we planning that? I would suggest no," said Sorensen.
"Tomorrow might we be, perhaps."
Canmore hotel welcomes visitors
As Parks Canada is telling people to stay home, one hotel in Canmore, outside Banff National Park, is still welcoming all visitors.
Basecamp Resorts operates Basecamp Lodge in Canmore. It hopes to attract visitors to its facilities, by using a virtual check in.
"You make your payment online, you’re then emailed a four-digit code for your room," said operations manager Dave Jones.
Jones said at the advice of Alberta Health Services medical professionals no one should enter the room, once guests checkout.
"We’re going to be leaving those rooms for nine days before we send our staff in to clean them," said Jones.
The lodge says cleaning staff are using ecolab disinfectant on all surfaces, handles, locks and switches.
Jones added that all linens are washed in 150 degree fahrenheit water with bleach.
Owner Sky McLean said the resort is willing to become an overflow facility for COVID-19 patients in self-isolation.
"We’re not in a position until the government says so to close our doors," said McLean.
"We want to have people coming here for whatever (the) reason may be, it could be for self isolation, it could be a personal reason."