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Alberta provincial parks close parking during COVID-19 pandemic

Parking, vehicle access at Alberta’s provincial parks restricted during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: Following a busy weekend at provincial parks in and around Calgary, the province has put a restriction on vehicle traffic in all Alberta parks. Adam Toy reports.

Barricades are up and signs are meeting visitors in Alberta’s provincial parks following Friday’s announcement restricting motor vehicles in the areas.

READ MORE: Alberta has 79 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 621

It’s all in an effort to increase physical distancing and prevent crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rules were announced Friday by Environment and Parks Minster Jason Nixon. Parking lots and staging areas like trailheads are no longer accessible by car. This comes a week after parking lots were full of cars and parks full of people despite repeated calls for social distancing.

On Saturday, Cliff Butchko had hoped to go snowshoeing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park — what he called “snow-cial distancing.”

“We’ve been watching the news and the federal parks are closed, so we thought that’s fine, we’ll stick to the provincial parks. We were going to go into King’s Creek and snowshoe, and got turned back by the forestry folks… We found out it was shut down yesterday,” Butchko told Global News.

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Joel Rosewarn, an avid backcountry skier and hiker, was surprised by a barricade near the Kananaskis Golf Course, preventing him from visiting the nearby RV park.

“Today I was actually just buying an avalanche beacon off of someone that lives in the RV park,” Rosewarn said Saturday. “The road behind me here is closed. I didn’t realize that until I showed up.”

While an inconvenience, he understands why conservation officers and the province put in the new restrictions.

“I totally understand why and I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

Vehicles are still allowed on some major roadways that travel through parks, but with parking closed, visitors will have to find legal places to park.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Parks Canada to close national parks, historic sites to vehicle traffic

Visitors to Fish Creek Provincial Park got parking warnings Saturday as officials aimed to educate the public. Conservation and RCMP officers will be able to issue fines for non-compliance, the government said in a news release.

Vehicle restrictions in provincial parks don’t mean that the parks are closed to the public. Parks can still be accessed on foot or by bike.