A view of the West Coast Trail near Nitinat Lake. (David Enstrom/Wikipedia Commons)

West Coast Trail to remain closed for now

Federal government won’t open world-famous trek until its First Nations are ready for visitors

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve will gradually open its gates to visitors starting June 4, along with a selection of other national parks.

But, for now at least, Vancouver Island’s world-famous West Coast Trail will remain closed.

Parks Canada said the trail will not be reopened without unanimous agreement from the three First Nations along it: the Bamfield-area Huu-ay-aht, the Ditidaht, who are based around Nitinat Lake, and the Port Renfrew-area Pacheedaht.

Robert Dennis, chief councillor of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation does not want the trail to reopen just yet.

“First of all, we want to be sure the virus is gone. Numbers are looking good in B.C., and that’s very encouraging to see. But with that, the health experts are all expecting a resurgence, and we don’t know when that will come, so that gives me a lot of concern,” he said. “We continue to maintain that our health and safety is or number one priority and economy is behind that.”

Health authorities have identified Indigenous communities as vulnerable in the coronavirus pandemic, and Dennis wants to see that taken in to account with any decisions to re-open.

“We have a lot of elders, and quite a few people in lower-income brackets living in crowded housing.”

RELATED: Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

RELATED: Port Renfrew reopening June 1

Memory of smallpox and tuberculosis weigh heavily in Dennis’ mind. His mother died from tuberculosis, and he was hospitalized from it.

“My grandfather told me massive graves were common when he was a child, when smallpox was killing so many people they couldn’t keep up. When I see what’s happening in New York, that really resonates with me because that’s what my grandfather told me happened here. There are so many people dying they couldn’t keep up with it. So I see things a little bit differently than perhaps an urban community would.”

When it is operational, about 7,500 hikers come annually from around the world to hike the rugged five-to-seven day, 75-kilometre (47-mile) trek, that meanders along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Port Renfrew and Bamfield. Access is capped, usually limited to May 1 through Sept. 30, and available by reservation only.

Parks Canada has requested a decision from the three nations on June 12, for possible open dates of July 10 or 17.

Separately, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which includes 14 West Coast Vancouver Island nations has met to talk about re-opening their territories. A motion to open will be discussed at their June 9 meeting.

For more news from the Island and beyond delivered directly to your email inbox, click here.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pacific Rim National Park would reopen on June 1. Other national parks will open on the 1st, but Pacific Rim partially opens on the 4th.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusHikingParks Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino’s Crystal Cove crowned top family destination for second year in a row

TripAdvisor has announced the recipients of its Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best awards.

COVID-19: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation asks Tofino businesses for support as emergency funding runs dry

“We need to pay for the work they do. It’s such important work.”

DFO says the five aggrieved B.C First Nations were consulted on fisheries plan

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations calls response ‘a sham,’ adding DFO never incorporates their views

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Canada can lead the way to save sharks from extinction, says fisheries expert

“Combined with fishing extraction numbers, sharks experience huge losses in the environment.”

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Devil’s Hand Poker Run in Campbell River to face RCMP scrutiny

The Campbell River RCMP will be keeping a close eye on the… Continue reading

B.C.’s fuel suppliers to publish prices to provide accountability: minister

Bruce Ralston says move will ensure industry publicly accountable for unexplained prices increases

Roots and Blues online festival live tonight on Black Press Media

Tune in to Black Press Media to watch the festival live Aug. 14, 15 and 16

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Missed rent payments because of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

Most Read