Lakelse Lake Provincial Park is set to re-open for day use this May long weekend. (File photo)

RCMP ready for May long weekend as parks reopen

‘Zero tolerance’ for underage drinking, police say

Terrace RCMP will be on sharp lookout for shenanigans this May long weekend as some parks are set to reopen for day use.

All provincial parks were first closed April 7 in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, and some are now being reopened as part of a plan to gradually open up services and facilities, released last week by the provincial government.

Perhaps the main park set to reopen in the Terrace area is Lakelse Lake Provincial Park, which was the site of significant unruly partying and underage drinking during last year’s May long weekend. A young man was stabbed and another person was caught driving impaired.

“Last year was a testament to the consequences that come with a lack of adult supervision and underage drinking,” said Staff Sergeant Michael Robinson in a statement provided to The Terrace Standard. “We had middle and high school students out at all hours of the night intoxicated by alcohol.”

The statement said RCMP will have extra officers on duty for May long weekend.

“Police officers will be operating in a zero-tolerance capacity especially surrounding liquor offences, such as underage drinking and allowing minors to possess and consume alcohol or cannabis,” the statement said.

Other parks in this area that are set to reopen include Kitsumkalum Provincial Park, Hai Lake – Mount Herman Provincial Park, and Nalbeelah Creek Wetlands Provincial Park. However, Kleanza Creek Provincial Park and Exchamsiks River Provincial Park remain closed.

“B.C. Parks is taking a phased approach to safely lift the system closure, focusing initially on day-use parks and protected areas that can accommodate: measured use and lower environmental impacts and which can also maintain physical distancing guidelines,” a release stated.

Physical distancing guidelines are to give visitors space between each other in parking lots and on trails.

The gradual openings will also mean a ramp up of services such as garbage collection and pit toilets or washrooms, depending upon a park’s amenities.

The May 14 re-opening also extends to trails, beaches, picnic areas and boat launches for day-use only. Provincial campgrounds won’t reopen until at least June 1.

The guidelines follow principles laid down by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

When camping is allowed, depending upon facilities in each park, there may be more distance between campsites and limits as to the number of people allowed in a campground.

While provincial principles encourage people to enjoy themselves outdoors, guidance remains as to limit groups to 50 people in number and to respect individual physical distancing.

Visitors are being asked to bring their own hand sanitizer and people who are sick should not visit a park.

And visitors are being asked to only visit parks closer to their homes.

“Some communal facilities such as shower buildings will open with enhanced cleaning protocols, while campgrounds that require visitors to use shared cooking facilities and backcountry cabins will remain closed,” BC Parks has indicated.

Parks that remain closed for the time being are those that are popular, meaning it would be difficult to adhere to physical distancing guidance.

-With files from Rod Link

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