In this photo taken May 17, 2020, people walk back and forth across the border between the U.S. and Canada in Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Wash. With the border closed to nonessential travel amid the global pandemic, families and couples across the continent have found themselves cut off from loved ones on the other side. But the recent reopening of Peace Arch Park, which spans from Blaine into Surrey, British Columbia, at the far western end of the 3,987-mile contiguous border, has given at least a few separated parents, siblings, lovers and friends a rare chance for some better-than-Skype visits. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson file photo)

In this photo taken May 17, 2020, people walk back and forth across the border between the U.S. and Canada in Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Wash. With the border closed to nonessential travel amid the global pandemic, families and couples across the continent have found themselves cut off from loved ones on the other side. But the recent reopening of Peace Arch Park, which spans from Blaine into Surrey, British Columbia, at the far western end of the 3,987-mile contiguous border, has given at least a few separated parents, siblings, lovers and friends a rare chance for some better-than-Skype visits. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson file photo)

Peace Arch Park to close amid dozens using it as loophole in COVID-19 border restrictions

Temporary measure in response to ‘risk associated with significant increase in visitors’

Government officials have closed a loophole that has enabled cross-border couples and families to reunite at Peace Arch Provincial Park during the pandemic.

As of 8 p.m. June 18, the park – located on the South Surrey/Blaine border – closed and will remain so until “it is deemed safe” to reopen it,” a news release issued Thursday morning by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy states.

The closure “addresses the public safety and traffic concerns in neighbouring communities due to a significant increase in the number of park visitors,” the release continues.

The decision was not made by public health officials, Dr. Bonnie Henry noted during her daily update on the pandemic Thursday afternoon.

“It was not closed because of COVID-19, it was closed because of concerns around numbers of people and issues in the community,” Henry said.

“The issues are related to COVID-19, but not specifically the risk of transmission.”

The park reopened on May 14, just over a month after all provincial parks were closed as part of actions to help address the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: B.C. closes all provincial parks for COVID-19 protection

READ MORE: Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Since then, parking lots and local access roads have been overwhelmed with nearly twice the number of vehicles compared to peak days in the summer season, resulting in illegal parking, the release states. As well, attendance has doubled over the same period compared to last year, leading to an increase in pedestrians along roadways.

Measures taken to manage the number of visitors – including increased enforcement, installation of a permanent gate at the park entrance and reducing park hours – “have not addressed the risk associated with the significant increases in visitors from both sides of the border.”

The release also points to recent exemptions announced to the Federal Quarantine Act, which allow immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to enter Canada to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days, as long as they are asymptomatic of COVID-19 and self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

Those exemptions have been criticized by some as “not helping” those who have jobs or other commitments.

READ MORE: Canada-U.S. couple embrace only option to meet – Peace Arch Park, now dubbed ‘Passion Park’

Henry acknowledged the challenges of being separated, and the opportunity that the park being open created for some to reconnect with their loved ones across the border.

“But like the rest of us in the province, we need to find other ways of being able to contact our families and friends and neighbours who live in Washington State and other parts of the world where we’ve had challenges,” she said.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSurreywhite rock

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

Just Posted

“Say cheese, uh, apple… nine-year-old Jason Moran and mum Bonnie are all smiles over a number of sales made during “apple day” of local cubs and beavers. Jason, a wolf cub, was one of 22 boys who, with the ready assistance of mothers, sold several boxes of apples in money-raising scheme for various projects.” (<em>The Lake News</em> Nov. 26, 1980)
Flashback: Crime wave, canoe misfortune and a highway lawsuit

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Following too closely

Maintaining a buffer in front of your vehicle gives you time to recover from inattention

Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau column: MLA vows to keep up the fight

COVID-19 continues to strain our communities

Heating cable laid in the cold frame, awaiting the layer of sand. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Greenhouse growing in the winter

I have a heating cable I’ve never used that I’m contemplating putting to work in the cold frame

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read