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Is it Time to Close Trails and Climbing Areas in Canada?

It might seem extreme, but some access groups in Canada are already doing it

Some places in Canada are leading the way and trying to get ahead of the novel coronavirus covid-19 outbreak situation by closing access. As health care workers plea for people to stay home and Ontario announced they’ll be fining people $1,000 for not social distancing, it’s time to wonder if all trails and recreation areas should close for a while. One such area that recently closed their climbing and hiking is Conservation Halton near Toronto.

I spend all of my time when I’m not working, in the backcountry, but seeing as how not-serious people are taking this, I believe it’s time to close the doors. At least for a short period of time so that health officials can get a grip on things. That doesn’t mean not going outside, it means not heading to trails where hundreds of other hikers are. It’s a complicated time with no great solution.

A recent press release from Conservation Halton noted that they are closing Mount Nemo, Rattlesnake, Kelso and other areas. It read: “Conservation Halton is continuing to monitor the latest covid-19 developments and is taking precautions to keep our workplace safe for staff, visitors and partners across the watershed.

“ We have taken proactive steps to ensure the health and well-being of our people, our customers, our suppliers, and our communities, while ensuring we provide uninterrupted services where possible. These efforts have been guided by our Core Values and focus on safety.”

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Busy Trails/Crags

Hiking trails and climbing areas out west, including Skaha, Smoke Bluffs, The Chief, Grassi Lakes, Elbow Falls and more, were so busy today that locals were heading to social media to urge visitors to stay home. Experts say that gas station pumps have been a transmitter, just imagine the railing next to the stairs on The Chief trail.

The Squamish Access Society has recommended that climbers don’t climb right now, as have many other access groups. However, crowding is an issue as people need to stay six feet apart from each other. Getting outdoors is important, but keeping the distance is even more important.

It’s illegal to head to the mountains in a number of European countries and more and more parks and trail systems are closing. The coronavirus is serious and people are not treating it as such.

If we continue to crowd trails and participate in high-risk activities, I can’t see the backcountry staying open. Be responsible, stay home (but get outside) and stay clean.