No timeline to reopen B.C. side of Peace Arch Park, despite border restrictions’ end

Click to play video: 'Peach Arch Park to remain closed despite end of border restrictions'
Peach Arch Park to remain closed despite end of border restrictions
WATCH: More than two and a half years after it was closed as part of B.C.'s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no timeline to reopen the Canadian side of Peace Arch Park. As Paul Johnson reports, parking and access issues with the Semiahmoo First Nation have not been resolved. – Sep 29, 2022

Canada may be lifting the last of its restrictions on travel across the U.S. border on Friday, but it remains unclear when the British Columbia side of the unique border-straddling Peace Arch Park will reopen.

Peace Arch Park is the only place in North America where people from both sides of the border can gather without crossing through the border.

On the iconic white arch that gives the park its name, the words “May these gates never be closed” are inscribed.

While the U.S. side of the park has remained open for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian side was shuttered in 2020 over concerns about the virus and has remained closed since.

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“It has been very confusing to many of us who use the park, who do a lot of border policy work,” Laurie Trautman, director of border policy research at Western Washington University said of the prolonged closure.

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Even with the Canadian side closed, the park proved a massive draw over the two and a half years of border restrictions, and remains so for unvaccinated Canadians who still remain restricted from entering the U.S. because of American policy, Trautman said.

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over trans-border weddings in Washington state’s Peace Arch Park'
Concerns raised over trans-border weddings in Washington state’s Peace Arch Park

Canadians can legally enter the U.S. side of the park by hopping over a ditch on Zero Avenue, so long as they return to Canada the way they came in.

“It really became literally the only place where these people could be together who were separated by those restrictions,” she said.

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“People flocked there from all over Canada and the U.S. during the pandemic, and visitation tripled in the summer months.”

In a statement, B.C.’s Ministry of Environment said reopening the park remained a top priority, but hinges on conversations officials are having with stakeholders, including the neighbouring Semiahmoo First Nation.

Elected Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell told Global News outstanding issues include parking and access to the nation’s land, issues that he said Victoria has been aware of long before the pandemic.

Residents along Zero Avenue who have regularly complained about park visitors parking along their residential street, however, told Global News they want to see the process sped up and the B.C. side reopened.

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