By Jensen, Randy on July 30, 2020.
Parks Canada is planning ahead for an anticipated busy rush over the long weekend in Waterton Lakes National Park.
With limited travel encouraged by governments to prevent the growing spread of COVID-19, people are anticipated to take to Waterton Park to enjoy some nature. Although visitation is welcomed and encouraged, Parks Canada is encouraging visitors to plan their trip ahead of time and to be prepared for some congestion.
“We do anticipate with the nice weather we will see congestion at peak periods within the park,” says Christy Gustavison, public relations manager for Waterton Lakes Field Unit. “It is really hard to predict where people decide to go, but I know from past experience long weekends are quite congested, so we want people to plan ahead and to take a look at our website to find things to do for a more tranquil experience, and follow our social media channels as we post information updates where there is congestion.”
Waterton Lakes does provide people enough space to all enjoy nature. Parks Canada says that the peak times of visitation are during the middle of the day, and if people are wanting a quieter experience, to visit during the morning or later afternoon times when the rush of people is slower. Gustavison says although some areas might see limited or no parking, many areas of the park are still accessible, but a longer walk may be required.
“We definitely encourage the two-metre social distancing measure put in by our health officials and in areas where that is not possible, we encourage visitors to wear a mask,” says Gustavison. “We do monitor our traffic and we have traffic control in place, and we also let people know that during peak periods there may be some congestion. They may have to wait a few minutes to find a parking spot or move to less busy areas. What we are noticing is some of our day-use areas along the Red Rock parkway, there is congestion, but there is ample parking in the town site and many of the trails can be accessed by walking from those spots in the town.”
With high visitation expected this weekend, littering is a concern, and proper garbage disposal is required to keep the park clean, as well as keeping animals safe.
“Make sure you pack your hand sanitizer and table cloths if you are planning on having a picnic. Another thing we want people to do if people decide to bring their own food is to put their garbage in one of our bear-proof bins and use hand sanitizer after,” says Gustavison. “If the bin you want to use is full, use the next available bin or take your garbage home with you and dispose of it there. We definitely want to make sure that we all put garbage away for the sake of our wildlife. Properly disposing of garbage or taking it home with you is best practice in any national park or protected area.”
Visitors are to expect some areas like Red Rock Canyon, Waterton Village and popular trailheads will be busy this weekend, as well as on peak days throughout the rest of summer. Gustavison says although there are many great parts throughout Waterton to explore, there are also other options surrounding the area that might give people a quieter experience.
“Some people don’t know about the Bar U Ranch, just south of Longview, is also a nice place to visit. There are walking trails, wagon rides, and we have staff performing traditional ranching chores, so another opportunity for people looking for a more tranquil experience and something more different,” says Gustavison.
Parks Canada has been and continues to adapt to the COVID-19 situation and access to services will be limited to visitors. Parks Canada is following the advice of public health experts and has implemented measures for cleaning and physical distancing at all places open for visitation. For more information on what parts of Waterton Lakes National Park are open, as well as other park information, visit parkscanada.gc.ca/Waterton.
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