BC Parks has closed Stawamus Chief Peaks Trail and the two main two parking lots at the provincial park, it was announced on Sunday.
“This decision has been made to ensure the continued health and safety of BC Parks visitors, employees, park contractors, volunteers and partners, and to support efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” read a release.
The move comes after local Leigh McClurg says he counted about 200 people climbing a metal ladder with bare hands, on the trail up the Stawamus Chief in the couple of hours he was there on Saturday.
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus that causes COVID-19 can linger for several hours to days on surfaces.
On the Chief's peaks, several groups were also gathered.
At a time when citizens are collectively supposed to be social distancing, crowded parking lots, trails and forest service roads in the Sea to Sky caused concern to not only McClurg, but also to Squamish RCMP who tweeted photos of full parking lots, calling the scenes "unsettling."
Services have also been stopped at most provincial parks, and visitors are asked to follow the recommendations of the Centre for Disease Control and practice social distancing.
We are seeing some unsettling images in our corridor in regards to the lack of social distancing and measures to #FlattenTheCurve of #Covid_19...we can only watch with extensive concern for our communities health and safety @WhistlerRCMP @RMWhistler @Squamishtown @VCHhealthcare pic.twitter.com/xW4tw4uYFW— Squamish RCMP (@SquamishRCMP) March 21, 2020
Mayor Karen Elliott responded to the crisis on Sunday, asking people from outside our region to stay home.
“The health of our residents in all our communities is at stake — not just Squamish, but the North Shore and the Lower Mainland too,” she said in a news release. “People are not listening to the experts — they are not keeping two metres apart from one another. This is not a joke, and it’s not an extended holiday. You must stay home as much as possible and be responsible, today. Our health care system depends on it.”
The District called for more restricted access to BC Parks.
“We’re all passionate about exploring BC, but now is not the time to travel,” said Elliott. “Do your part now, so we can all get back to our favourite pastimes again later.”
“To most effectively flatten the curve, and break the chain of transmission, we need everyone to take action at the onset stage. That is why we have put public gathering orders and social distancing measures in place now – to protect us in the weeks ahead," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer in a joint statement sent out Saturday.
“Now is the time to stay home as much as possible, and to keep a safe distance from others when outside. We are reminding British Columbians that their actions today will determine the impact of the virus in coming weeks.”