The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has announced the closure of all local playgrounds, basketball courts, the skate park and other public gathering areas, effective immediately.
The closures include Rainbow Park, Bayly Park, Alta Lake Park, the Lost Lake beach area, Train Wreck trail, and all other gathering areas like beaches, lawns, picnic areas and tennis and basketball courts in other parks, such as Alpha Lake and Lakeside parks.
“Social distancing measures are not optional,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton in a release. “We have had RCMP, Whistler Fire Service and municipal bylaw officers in the community sharing the importance of remaining at least two metres (six feet) away from others. Unfortunately, they report they are still seeing groups congregating, children playing together on playgrounds or on basketball courts. The Prime Minister has said many times recently that everyone needs to stay home and we all need to follow that direction. We are also telling visitors not to come to Whistler.”
The Village of Pemberton put out a similar message on Sunday, urging visitors to postpone their trips to the area after a recent surge in visitation.
“Many of our community members have expressed urgent concern over the influx of recreationalists coming to Pemberton this weekend. Many of those people coming into town, visiting our stores and walking around our town are not practicing social distancing,” says Mayor Mike Richman in a release. “This activity puts our community at greater risk, and could pose challenges in maintaining a healthy supply chain locally.”
Richman said Joffre Lakes and the mountain bike trailheads around Pemberton were at capacity on Saturday with both vehicles and cyclists.“I’m so disappointed that some are not getting the message. We each have an important role to play in the trajectory of this dangerous virus. We need to keep each other accountable and safe. It’s our moral obligation,” Richman went on. “Parents, you also play a very important role. Talk to your kids about social distancing, keep a close eye on them. And if you are unable to watch them when they leave the house, then keep them home.”
The Village has also announced it would close the Pemberton Skateboard Park and all playgrounds, effective Monday, March 23.
Whistler has dealt with many of the same issues this weekend. According to the RMOW, the Whistler Fire Rescue Service and RCMP were called to respond to a large gathering on the evening of Saturday, March 21. This came after a number of photos flooded social media late last week showing large groups gathering on Green Lake.
"Exposing our emergency personnel to large groups puts their health and safety at risk and puts the health and safety of our community at risk,” the release went on.
In Squamish, BC Parks announced Sunday it had closed all trails accessing Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, including alpine trails, as well as the two main parking lots in the park.
All municipal facilities will remain closed in Whistler until further notice. Municipal services are “being made available gradually as the RMOW adjusts to providing these through our workforce working remotely,” the release said.
Fines and arrests are possible for non-compliance of social-distancing guidelines, said Canada's health minister Patty Hajdu in a press briefing. Provinces and territories have tools to deal with the crisis, but if federal uniformity is needed, the Emergencies Measures Act is an option, Hajdu said.
"We will not hesitate to take stronger measures if we need to," she noted.
"People need to take this seriously ... We would like to see people comply willingly."
The RMOW’s Emergency Operations Centre was activated March 15 to ensure the continued delivery of essential services.
VOP Mayor Richman said he would be reaching out to other elected leaders in the Sea to Sky, as well as BC Parks and the provincial government, to see what tools are available to mitigate visitation to the region.
Municipal information and updates will continue to be shared at whistler.ca and on the RMOW’s social media channels.