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Coronavirus: Municipal, regional parks in Okanagan to remain open, but social distancing a must

Municipal and regional parks in the Okanagan remain open heading into the long weekend despite provincial park closures.
Municipal and regional parks in the Okanagan remain open heading into the long weekend despite provincial park closures. Global News

Unlike provincial parks, most, if not all, municipal and regional parks in the Okanagan will remain open during the long weekend.

However, officials in every jurisdiction have the same message: You must adhere to public health orders of practicing physical distancing.

Many parks have limited amenities, including playgrounds being shut down. In some cases, washrooms have also been closed to the public.

READ MORE: All provincial parks in B.C.’s Southern Interior closed to help address COVID-19: Ministry of Environment

In the North Okanagan, the regional district made the decision to keep its parks open, but is encouraging residents to enjoy parks and trails in their own neighbourhoods or those that are less popular.

“The best choice is for residents to walk, run or cycle in their own neighbourhoods,” said Akbal Mund, chair of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee. “We have a large network of trails in the Greater Vernon area.

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“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.”

Click to play video 'All B.C. provincial parks closed to enforce distancing during COVID-19 outbreak' All B.C. provincial parks closed to enforce distancing during COVID-19 outbreak
All B.C. provincial parks closed to enforce distancing during COVID-19 outbreak

Mund stated that the regional district is prepared to take the same step the province took by closing its parks — if people are found to be violating the rules.

“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,” said Mund.

“When people violate physical distancing, they are putting their lives and the lives of people around them in danger. We take the health and safety of our residents very seriously.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Can we go hiking? Canadians are getting mixed messages

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While the Central Okanagan Regional District has also kept its parks open, it’s reminding people to follow the public health guidelines of staying at least two metres apart.

“I’ve been in discussions and communications with my regional district partners across the province, just to confirm that if not all, the majority of them are for sure are keeping their local parks open to their communities,” said Murray Kopp, for the Central Okanagan Regional District.

“It’s important for people to have opportunities to go outdoors, to be able to decompress, if you will, or to gain the benefits of being outdoors.”

Click to play video 'Stanley Park being closed to cars' Stanley Park being closed to cars
Stanley Park being closed to cars

In the South Okanagan, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) confirmed Thursday that its park also remain open, including the parks and trails that are owned by the province but operated by the RDOS.

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This includes sections of the KVR Trail operated by the RDOS.

The RDOS is asking park users to leave the area if physical distancing is not possible.

As for the Okanagan’s three largest cities, municipal parks in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton remain open.

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Calgary-area RV park opens early for quarantining snowbirds

In an e-mail to Global News, a spokesperson for the City of Kelowna said bylaw officers started patrolling popular spots on the gator-mobile on Wednesday and reported that, for the most part, people were doing their part in maintaining their social distance.

Bylaw officers will be patrolling both municipal and regional parks more often due to COVID-19, educating people on the importance of spacing.