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

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Eliot Kinsey runs T3ch For the People at Ladysmith Secondary. (Jennifer Fink photo)
High school student joins program to improve access to technology

By George Brockhurst, LSS Student Writer As the world moves forward, people… Continue reading

Lymphedema is often treated with medical devices such as compression garments, pneumatic compression pumps, or specialized custom wraps and bandages. (Submitted photo)
March 6 marks World Lymphedema Day

Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, and afflictings millions worldwide

Work has begun on the Downtown Public Washroom on 1st Avenue. (Submitted photo)
Work has begun on the Ladysmith Downtown Public Washroom

The project is expected to be finished in the spring

An architectural rendering of the five storey condo building at 201/203 Dogwood Drive. (BJK Architecture photo)
Five storey condo building proposal at Dalby’s proceeds to public hearing stage

Frank and Mike Crucil of FMC Holdings are hoping to turn Dalby’s Automotive into a five storey condo

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read