The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve began welcoming visitors back on Thursday .
The Park Reserve shut down on March 18 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but Parks Canada announced last week that certain areas of the Park Reserve would reopen on June 4, including the Rainforest Trail and Shorepine Bog Trail as well as Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach, along with their respective parking lots, beach accesses and washrooms facilities.
Green Point Campground is expected to remain closed until June 21 at the earliest.
While Long Beach is reopening, the area around Incinerator Rock, as well as its adjacent parking lot, will be closed and closely monitored due to its proximity to the nearby Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation communities of Ty-Histanis and Esowista, which both remain closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a lot of things we took into consideration and then worked with the First Nations to ensure we incorporated any concerns they had,” the Park Reserve’s superintendent Karen Haugen told the Westerly News. “We needed to carefully consider how and when to do things responsibly, taking consideration of the health and safety of the First Nations, local communities, visitors as well as the Parks Canada team members that will have to be out and about in these places.”
She said Park Reserve personnel have been meeting weekly with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Ucluelet First Nation to collaborate on the reopening strategy and added that those meetings resulted in the establishment of a new Junior Guardian Program.
“This will employ local First Nation community members who will be posted near the communities to educate visitors and to support and respect the First Nations community safety. So, they’ll be asking visitors to stay away and keeping them apprised of why,” she said.
She added that the Junior Guardians will be supplemented by Park Reserve staff roaming the beach and advising all visitors to stay away from the Incinerator Rock area.
“They’re going to be the eyes and the ears for us to determine how things are moving. It’s ever changing and it will be ever evolving as situations arise, but with everybody on the ground and the amount of collaboration we’re doing together with the districts and the First Nations I think we’ll be able to adjust as things move,” she said.
“It is really a day-by-day, weekby-week, month by month situation…We are all in this together and continuing to be respectful, understanding and collaborating with one another as we work through these challenges is going to be really helpful in the long run for everybody.”
She added that visitors will be expected to follow all signage throughout the Park Reserve, respect social distancing and hygiene protocols and ensure they understand the visitor guidelines posted at pc.gc.ca/pacificrim.
“Safety is a shared responsibility,” read last week’s announcement from Parks Canada. “Parks Canada is asking Canadians to be cautious and conservative in their use of these places, to observe any regional or provincial travel restrictions and to respect any closures that are in place. Anyone participating in recreational activities should be extra cautious to avoid injury and/or getting lost to help minimize the demands placed on search and rescue teams and on the health care system.”
Haugen said all West Coast communities are working together to create consistent messaging for potential travelers.
“We’re really working closely with the local districts and the First Nations throughout the COVID-19 measures to ensure any resumption of service is respectful of neighbouring communities and that we’re working together to ensure we’re getting the messages out and that our messages are coherent and in sync,” she said.