Will Revelstoke area trails and rec areas be open this summer?

B.C. government: Compliance with COVID-19 restrictions are a factor in decisions to open or close Revelstoke-area trails, but overarching orders from the provincial health officer are another consideration.

Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo: Mountain biking on the Mt. Cartier trail. Photo by Matthew Timmins

The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused the closure of many outdoor recreation facilities in the Revelstoke area, such as the federal Mount Revelstoke national park, where all Parks Canada facilities are closed and motor vehicle access is suspended.

In the Revelstoke area, many parks and recreation sites, including mountain bike trails, are managed or overseen by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD), often through their Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. (RSTBC) department.

The sunny weather on Saturday, April 4, brought many Nordic skiers and other backcountry enthusiasts to the Mount Macpherson area, causing the parking lot to overflow, with some parking on the highway.

We reached out to RSTBC, who confirmed that the high volume of people at the Mount Macpherson area led to the closure due to COVID-19 concerns.

So, what is the status of provincial parks and recreation sites in the Revelstoke area? Will hiking and mountain biking trails be open? Does user behaviour and volume affect decisions to keep them open or closed? (Yes). We checked in with RSTBC to find out.

File photo: A racer comes down the Crowbar trail on Mount Mackenzie on Sept. 3. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

We received the Q&A reply below; however, on April 8, the provincial government announced that all BC Parks are closing immediately, with the provincial government saying the decision was based on “the widespread call for increased action to address COVID-19.”

(Like many things COVID-19 related, things can change from day to day.)

In an April 8 announcement, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman said the B.C. government tried to keep parks open, but keeping people apart has proved too difficult.

“Because physical distancing works, it is critical that we take every action needed to restrict the spread of COVID-19. This applies to British Columbians and out-of-province visitors who were planning to visit or stay at our provincial parks. The message is clear: stay home, avoid travel, do not put yourself or others at risk.

“I understand and share the love people in British Columbia have for the outdoors and the connection between health and proximity to nature. We tried to provide safe space for people to get some exercise and fresh air in our beautiful parks. But it has proven too challenging to maintain safe distance between visitors. This action is difficult but necessary. We look forward to the day we can welcome people back to our wonderful parks.”

File photo: The hike didn’t get that much harder than this. Our guide brought hiking boots and a walking pole. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The closure is for BC Parks, but many of the trails and recreation areas in the Revelstoke area are not parks, but usually some kind of tenure managed by clubs or companies, overseen by RSTBC. We asked the MFLNRORD about plans for the Revelstoke area. Here is our Q&A with a ministry representative:

Revelstoke Mountaineer: The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club has said the Mount Macpherson trails area was ordered closed by Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. Is it closed? Your website says only the lodge is closed.

The lodge and the ski trails are closed.

RM: In terms of Revelstoke-area parks and trails facilities, including tenure facilities, what is open and what is closed now? Where can people find the local information?

MFLNRORD: BC’s provincial health officer recommends everyone maintain a safe physical distance of two metres from others when outside their home to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

With respect to sites and facilities that are managed by Recreation Sites and Trails BC, and considering the provincial health officer’s direction, all overnight camping, and campground day-use is prohibited.

More information can be found online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/sports-culture/recreation/camping-hiking/sites-trails/alerts.

Revelstoke resident Chris Miller gets the first ride after the official grand opening of the new aMTB trail on Mt. Macpherson. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

RM: What is closed in the Revelstoke area?

MFLNRORD:

Recreation Sites: Wadey, Carnes, Downie, Sprague Bay, Potlatch, Begbie Falls, Echo Lake, and Eagle Bay.

Recreation Trails: Mount Macpherson Nordic trails are closed. Other snow-covered summer trails have not been formally closed. The status of these trails will be re-evaluated, considering user compliance and direction from Public Health Authorities.

RM: What are some triggers causes RSTBC to decide to close a facility? What led to the decision to close the Mount Macpherson trails? Are there specific triggers you’re watching out for, such as crowded parking lots?

MFLNRORD: B.C.’s provincial health officer everyone maintain a safe physical distance of two metres from others when outside their home to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

Recreation, Sites and Trails BC has implemented a closure, in collaboration with the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club, due to the high amount of traffic and parked cars that were observed near the Mount Macpherson trails.

RM: Will the Mount Macpherson trails system also be closed for summer activities such as hiking and biking?

MFLNRORD: It is difficult to determine at this time. We will continue to follow the recommendations of public health officials to keep all trail and facility visitors safe.

RM: Are there further closures planned for the Revelstoke area?

MFLNRORD: We continue to assess the Mount Cartier recreation trail to determine if it is accessible due to its current conditions.

As a reminder, the new trails built last year, Sunnyside up and Haulin’daze are closed due to reasons not related to COVID-19.

Again, BC’s provincial health officer recommends everyone maintain a safe physical distance of two metres from others when outside their home to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

File photo: Spectators watch as skiers race by during the BC Cup event held at Mt. Macpherson over the weekend. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

RM: In terms of reopening trails at a future point, what is the plan at this point? 

We will continue to follow the recommendations of the provincial health officer.

RM: When the time comes to reopen trails, how will that work? Will partnership agreement holders be required to have procedures in place? What can you say at this point?

We are going to have to assess the capacity of partnership agreement holders and RSTBC to ensure that we meet or exceed guidelines that we anticipate will be provided by relevant government authorities.

RM: How are you communicating the closures to the public?

Through provincial information releases, and online at recsitesandtrails.ca

On-site signage is also being used, if required.

RM: Are there fines or sanctions in place if people don’t comply? 

Fines are a possibility for non-compliance with closures. The maximum fine is $115.

This post was published by a member of the Revelstoke Mountaineer staff. Stories published under the staff byline include news briefs, stories that consist mostly of media releases, social media post shares, and stories by contributors with the author's name listed in the body of the story.