The parking lot at Willows Beach Park joins those across the region now closed to the public. (@OakBayPolice/Twitter)

Popular parking lots closing across Vancouver Island to encourage long weekend social distancing

Officials concerned warm weather will ease people’s commitment to fighting the pandemic

When they told you they wanted you to stay home this long weekend, they meant it.

And just in case you didn’t get the message, they blocked the parking lot access to many of your favourite outdoor spots.

Visitors to popular outdoor spots like Willows Beach in Oak Bay, the Holland Creek Trail system in Ladysmith, and many other spots around the Island arrived to find the parking lots closed Thursday.

”The Town understands the strong desire for everyone to be outside as temperatures begin to warm and days are becoming longer,” a Town of Ladysmith news release states. “Closing the parking lots will ease congestion at the trailhead, decrease the number of hikers and walkers on the Holland Creek Trail loop and discourage visitors to our community this weekend.”

The changes are in line with other parking and access limitations in the region that start Friday, April 10. The City of Victoria is closing streets and reassigning parking near Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road every weekend starting with Easter. In Saanich, Mt. Doug Park is closed for the long weekend and the gates will reopen on April 14 at noon.

The closures all come amid the COVID-19 pandemic as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads with residents to maintain social distancing even during the nice weather.

RELATED: Officials ask for continued COVID-19 vigilance over Easter weekend

RELATED: B.C. closes all provincial parks for COVID-19 protection

“I look forward to seeing our parks bustling with play dates and picnics again one day, but right now we are following Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement. “Now is the time for people to remain in their home municipalities and to use the parks and trail systems nearby. So if you do go out for exercise and fresh air, a walk close to home is your best option.”

“We want families to have fun and enjoy themselves as much as possible during this challenging time,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes. “I know we all appreciate that our personal behaviour over this coming weekend will directly impact how we can flatten the COVID-19 curve and keep our communities and loved ones safe.”

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