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New restrictions put in place for Banff National Park this weekend

Last Updated Nov 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm MDT

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

BANFF (660 NEWS) — Banff National Park will have new safety measures for visitors in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 starting on Saturday.

The restrictions are in support of the guidelines put in place by the provincial government.

Visitor centres in Banff and Lake Louise and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site will be closed to the public, but services will still be available online and through the phone.

The Bow Valley Parkway will also be closed to public traffic from the Fireside day-use area to just east of the Rockbound Lake trailhead.

“That roadway is primarily to limit and manage access to the popular Johnston Canyon trail where visitation numbers are typically strong and high and physical distancing is really quite difficult on the one-metre catwalk,” Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager for the Banff Field Unit for Parks Canada said.

And with these new closures and adjustments, no layoffs will be happening.

“We will still have some staff working (at the visitor centres) in order to make sure that the information and visitor service is still available. So, we’ll still have our full complement of staff on and continue to do so,” Rubeling added.

The tourism industry in the area has been drastically affected by the pandemic, but the new restrictions are meant to keep the public safe.

“Parks Canada, ski hills, commercial operators, the tour operators and the park continue to seek direction from Alberta Health Services to work to align all of our actions, our protocols, meet guidelines we put in place and ensure the safety of Canadians as well as community members and staff members as well.

“So, I know those conversations are ongoing. [It] sometimes seems like we’ve got health services on speed dial to really make sure that we are following and aligning and I know those other industries are as well,” she said.

Even though the pandemic has hit hard, the number of people headed to Banff National Park is not down drastically. September saw a one per cent drop in visitors compared to last year and October had a two per cent drop, but the numbers are higher than in 2017 and 2018.

These measures will be in place until December 15, but could be shortened or extended, dependent on the number of cases and will be re-evaluated over time.

Rubeling also said Parks Canada is working to have a shuttle service available for people still looking to access Johnston Canyon for the holidays.