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Mountain towns remain off-limits for the time being as some restrictions eased

Last Updated May 2, 2020 at 11:22 am MST

(PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The mountains are not calling this weekend, or any time in the near future, even as the province lays out a plan to start relaunching the economy this month.

Premier Jason Kenney announced a three-phase strategy on Thursday, which does start with reopening some public lands and parks before a target date of May 14 to reopen some businesses.

This may cause some Calgarians and Albertans to feel tempted to hop in the car and take a trip towards the mountains, but you will have to resist that urge.

“Now’s not the time to spend time in the town of Canmore. Please wait until we’re further along in managing the COVID situation,” said Canmore Mayor John Borrowman.

“We want and look forward to having visitors come back to us when it is safe to do so,” added Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.

Both towns had issued directives advising people to stay close to home, rather than travel to the scenic areas, as they look to prevent outbreaks of the virus in their communities.

Banff has also been running checkstops on the weekends, with officers forcing non-essential travellers to turn around and go back where they came from.

At the same time, people in the towns have also been told to avoid non-essential travel.

Sorensen said those checkstops will continue for the time being, but as businesses start to reopen, they may evolve to the changing circumstances, and they will coordinate with the business community and tourism stakeholders.

For Canmore, such checkstops are not in place, so Borrowman needs to reinforce that stay-at-home message.

However, he said he is a bit confused by the provincial strategy and is worried is creates a paradoxical situation.

“While the government acknowledges that we will still be discouraging non-essential travel, reopening the parks will be encouraging non-essential travel,” he said with a chuckle.

“There will be some direct impacts here to the town of Canmore.”

As of Friday, there were only two active cases of COVID-19 in Canmore, and Borrowman wants to be sure that the effective work they have done does not fall to the wayside.

“I’ve spoken with a number of people,” said Borrowman, “and the sense from a number of people is that the reopening is coming a little too soon.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi reinforced these points during an update on COVID-19 response, reminding Calgarians to not venture far from their neighbourhoods and to stay away from large groups.

“As parks are reopening and parking spaces are reopening, you have to be good. You have to go to places where there are not other people. If your favourite hiking spot’s parking lot is totally full, drive to another hiking spot. Be self-sufficient. Take in what you need, take out what you need, don’t expect that you’re going to stop for dinner,” he said.

Both mayors are excited at the prospect of some businesses being allowed to open up again, and that should ease some significant financial strain being faced by the tourist hotspots, but Albertans hungry for some fresh mountain air need to stay patient for now.

“We do want to make sure that it will be safe for the visitors and we want to make sure that it is safe for our businesses and their employees, safe for our residents and certainly to continue to protect their environment and our brand of a healthy, refreshing place to visit and be,” said Sorensen.