It is already June (and 100+ days since the start of the Coronavirus). I have been waiting as late as reasonably possible to write this message, due to the ongoing and rapidly changing conditions brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I am fortunate – my income has not been impacted, I am in good health, and I can follow all Public Health Authority guidelines without undue hardship. I know that many of you are likely not as fortunate in your present circumstances. There has been reduced income, lost employment, children not able to attend school, and perhaps you, your family, or friends may have suffered with or lost someone due to COVID-19. Whatever impacts this pandemic is having on you and your families – my thoughts are with you – and I truly hope you’ll be able to return to a life free from the current uncertainties, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Presently, we are advised to enjoy outdoor recreation and stay physically active. As a retired Mental Health professional, I know that doing so provides numerous mental and physical health benefits. If you are planning to walk or hike at a local or nearby trail, please note these important recommendations:
• It is essential that we all maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (approx. the length of two hiking poles) from others.
• We should stay connected to those important to us (at least virtually if it is not possible in person) and pursue outdoor recreation as close to home as possible.
• If you are planning a hike with others, this is not the time for car-pooling or sharing food or drink containers.
• Nor is it time for those personal “first ascents,” we must all stay within our personal comfort zones, so we do not take undue risk that may require the services of first responders.
Wharton at Metro Vancouver Parks near Cliff Falls.
Recently, some of our favourite B.C. parks have reopened, although not all parks or trails are open yet. Recreation Sites and Trails BC has also closed or restricted access to many of its managed trails and recreation sites. For those parks or trails that have not reopened yet, or have experienced access restrictions, I personally believe that this action may be counterproductive. We increasingly need to engage in outdoor activity, yet on a smaller footprint of land – potentially making it more difficult to maintain a safe distance, and some people may be tempted to travel further from home to find uncrowded spaces.
As the FMCBC representative on the Board of the Outdoor Recreation Council [ORC], at the April ORC Board meeting, I introduced a motion to write a letter to the respective Ministers asking them to reconsider their decisions and review each park closure or regional closures independently, find alternatives to reduce the pressures of high usage areas, and find ways for residents to enjoy local parks and trails in a safe way. This motion passed, with a strong majority in favour, and a letter has been sent. Additionally, interviews with media have been conducted and a report on alternative strategies have been released by RC Strategies.
I must stress that if these closures remain in effect or should further restrictions arise that restrict access to trails or other outdoor recreation opportunities, we must comply with these restrictions. Neither I, FMCBC employees, or your Board of Directors in any way condones not following provincial guidelines. Nonetheless, I believe it is appropriate to advocate on your behalf where it is warranted.
On behalf of all FMCBC members, I extend a very big thank you and vote of confidence to all levels of government and provincial and national health authorities for their leadership and hard work, including Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer and Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer for Canada. I would also like to recognize the dedication and commitment of health care providers, grocery store employees, transportation workers, and all those workers who provide essential services.
And finally, thank you to Stacey Santos for her dedication and hard work on behalf of the FMCBC. Stacey worked her last day with the FMCBC at the end of April and resigned from the FMCBC to accept other work opportunities. I know I am not the only one who will miss her expertise and dedication.
Please join me in welcoming Chandra Matlock as Stacey’s replacement in the Communications & Administration Manager role. I have every confidence Chandra will do just as well in her new position.