Visitors Center along Hwy 5 to the town of Valemount, B.C., with the Cariboo Mountain range in background. (Village of Valemount/Wikimedia Commons)

Visitors Center along Hwy 5 to the town of Valemount, B.C., with the Cariboo Mountain range in background. (Village of Valemount/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

  • Jul. 6, 2020 6:00 a.m.

By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat

More than a month-and-a-half after the government began reopening sectors of the economy, the Premier and B.C.’s top medical officer announced it was safe enough to support local businesses and travel around the province.

“We found a balance of increasing our contacts and doing it in a way that’s safe,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “We need to keep this balance for the coming months until we have an effective vaccine or treatment.”

On June 24, the government announced the province could move into Phase 3 of the restart. All accommodations, tourism operators, movie theatres, restaurants, bars, and retail outlets could open provided they conformed to public health and WorkSafe BC protocols.

The same day of the Phase 3 announcement, the Village of Valemount declared itself officially open for business.

“Welcome back to our community and surrounding area,” said Mayor Owen Torgerson. “The mountains are ready for you.”

Crowds over 50 people are still not allowed, nor are conferences and other large public venues. Even large family get-togethers continue to be discouraged.

Henry cautioned people to maintain safe physical distance from those outside their bubble. “The things that we have been doing will get us through this very unique summer,” she said. “And will get us through the upcoming fall as well.”

We need to remember we are not leaving COVID-19 behind, said Horgan. “It is here in every corner of British Columbia and we need to behave accordingly.”

READ MORE: B.C. ready for in-province travel, John Horgan says

It was all of us who flattened the initial curve, Torgerson said in a press release issued on June 24. “It will be all of us ­that will be responsible for the safe implementation, and ultimately, the success of B.C.’s restart plan,” he said.

Horgan says he hopes as British Columbians travel farther afield, they will be mindful they’re going into someone else’s neighborhood. “They should be respectful of that and practice the same procedures that they put in place in their own hometown, in their own community, wherever they’re traveling to,” he said.

We can all move at our own pace, said Henry. “Some individuals may choose to continue to limit their social interactions… and some communities may decide that they are not yet ready to receive visitors.”

Residents of McBride have mixed feelings about the reopening of the economy, said Mayor Gene Runtz. Businesses need more customers but with an older demographic and limited healthcare resources, villagers are understandably nervous, he said.

The decision of whether or not to encourage tourists in the community will go before municipal council, said the mayor, who in mid-March took the unusual step of publicly asking visitors to stop visiting the village.

“That was different,” said Runtz. “Everybody was scared to death.” It was early days in the pandemic when some snowmobilers hit town and were disregarding public health rules, he said. “These people were not respecting what was being said in B.C., so, we said, `If you can’t behave yourself, just stay away.”’

Still, restaurants and businesses need tourists, the majority of whom typically come from Alberta, said Runtz. No one knows how much of a gap in-province tourists can fill.

Either way, the mayor already knows how he’ll be voting in council. “I want to see people come back right now,” he said. “It’s time.”

READ MORE: B.C. reopening travel not sitting well with several First Nations

McBride is by nature, a friendly place, said Runtz. “If people start coming in, and if they self-distance, and are respectful,” he said. “I don’t see any problem at all.

There are a lot of places to go and a lot of capacity within the system, said Horgan, who is hoping for a holiday himself in the middle of August after the current legislative session has ended. “People should, if they have the time and have the ability, they should be planning their holidays right now.”

CoronavirusTourism

Just Posted

A multi-angle rendering of what a potential wayfinding sign would look like. The village is working with several local organizations to create the sign, designed to help tourists find their way around Harrison. (Screenshot/Village of Harrison Hot Springs)
Harrison Council approves wayfinding signs for tourism

Signs to be located at corner of Esplanade and St. Alice

A Milbert’s tortoiseshell rests on a flower. Nature Chilliwack says butterfly gardens for every stage of life are possible using plants native to the area. (Photo/Nature Chilliwack)
Nature Chilliwack offers butterfly garden tips

Gardens can be created using local plants, the nature club says

(Photo/Mary-Jean Coyle)
Community Camera for June 11, 2021

Submit your photos to news@ahobserver.com

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

(Adam Louis/Observer)
PHOTOS: Students leap into action in track events at Kent Elementary

At Kent Elementary, when the sun’s outside, the fun’s outside. The intermediate… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Most Read