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Sea to Sky officials urge visitors to stay away until after May long weekend

‘Do not go to Whistler or Tofino, even on a day trip,’ says Whistler mayor
Jack Crompton at RMOW Meeting
Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton joined other Sea to Sky leaders on Friday in urging visitors to stay close to home for the time being.

Following more details on the B.C. government’s latest travel restrictions, officials across the Sea to Sky are urging visitors to stay away from the corridor until after the May long weekend.

“This means anyone from a community outside the Sea to Sky is being asked to postpone their leisure or recreational travel to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and the [Squamish-Lillooet Regional District] until after May 25 or whenever the B.C. government allows residents to travel to other community for non-essential travel. This includes both day trips and overnight trips to the region,” read a release.

On Friday, April 23, public safety minister Mike Farnworth issued an order restricting non-essential travel between three regional zones: the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health areas);Vancouver Island (Island Health); and the Northern and Interior regions (Northern health and Interior Health).

A $575 fine can be issued to those who contravene the new orders, which are in effect until May 25.

The province is also working with law enforcement to implement additional measures that will grant police the authority to set up roadside checks in and out of the three regions. Police across B.C. have warned of the challenge of enforcing such broad orders and have requested more clarity from Victoria.

“We understand the Province’s need to keep communities safe in this ongoing and protracted pandemic. But, as we said earlier this week, many of our Members are opposed to this proposal as it puts them at risk of public backlash, legal ambiguity, and risk of exposure and possible infection due to the continuing slow immunization roll-out for police in the province,” said Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, in a statement Friday.

“We welcome Minister Farnworth’s commitment to funding the additional training, resources, and equipment this will require, but—most fundamentally—we want to be engaged in this decision and to have a seat at the table as this Order is being developed.”

While today’s announcement formalizes the order, Farnworth said in a press briefing that the provincial health office’s directives remain the same as before: British Columbians should remain in their home community unless for essential travel.

Essential travel includes attending school or work; transporting commercial goods; returning to a principal residence; accessing childcare; and using healthcare or assisting someone in obtaining healthcare.

“As Minister Farnworth said, do not go to Whistler or Tofino, even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home. The Sea to Sky region is united asking that people not visit until after the May long weekend. We look forward to being able to welcome you back this summer,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton in the release.

“It is with great reluctance that we are asking visitors to stay away right now so that we can welcome them back to our communities in the near future,” said Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman in the release. “We know people enjoy Pemberton’s mountain biking trails, hiking trails and recreation areas and we hope this summer season will be an active, healthy and profitable one for all but that is only possible if people adhere to these new restrictions. We look forward to being able to show off and share with guests our extraordinary valley again very soon.”

SLRD board chair (and Whistler Councillor) Jen Ford also urged “extreme caution” in order to get COVID-19 transmission under control, particularly as  some SLRD communities “have been hard-hit with surges in COVID-19 cases, and our rural communities, from Porteau Cove all the way to Bridge River Valley, face significant risk of exposure with increased visitation to the area.”

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