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‘The Florida of Metro Vancouver’: Concern over crowds at Belcarra Regional Park

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Regional parks are packed during a summer heatwave and that has some officials concerned. Sarah MacDonald reports – Jul 27, 2020

Amid a summer heatwave and a pandemic that has health officials encouraging people to spend more time outdoors, Metro Vancouver’s regional parks are filling up fast.

Anmore Mayor John McEwen, who serves as chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks Committee, says the number of visitors to Metro Vancouver’s 23 regional parks is up 40 per cent compared to the same time last year.

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Day one of new day pass system for most popular B.C. parks – Jul 27, 2020

Capacity at Belcarra Regional Park is up over 70 per cent.

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Belcarra Mayor Neil Belenkie says White Pine Beach and Sasamat Lake, located in the park, have been overwhelmed by crowds. He notes that the lake has recently experienced an E.coli outbreak.

“At Sasamat Lake, I call it the Florida of Metro Vancouver,” he said. “It is insane. And unfortunately, it has to be a hotbed not just of E.coli but of COVID to come.

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“The illegal parking and the double parking and the towing is crazy. The lack of social distancing at the beach is ridiculous.”

Port Moody police said Monday that officers have been to Sasamat Lake and White Pine Beach for reports of physical assaults, assaults with bear spray, illegal parking, people walking on the roadway, intoxication and open liquor consumption, and abuse of bylaw officers.

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Many parking lots at hotspots are reaching full capacity early in the morning, with lineups forming as early as 6:30 a.m.

Officials are sometimes left with no option but to close parking lots and turn people away.

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“I experienced it first-hand how malicious people can be … when you tell them that the park is closed and they’re shocked that it’s quarter after 8 in the morning, and the park opens at 8,” McEwen said.

“We had a tow truck parked right there and people just don’t believe us.”

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McEwen said parking is being limited at spots such as White Pine Beach to encourage physical distancing.

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With capacity capped and demand soaring, McEwen says taking public transit to many regional parks remains a viable option.

— With files from Sarah MacDonald

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