A view of the West Coast Trail near Nitinat Lake. (David Enstrom/Wikipedia Commons)

West Coast Trail to remain closed for now

Federal government won’t open world-famous trek until its First Nations are ready for visitors

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve will gradually open its gates to visitors starting June 4, along with a selection of other national parks.

But, for now at least, Vancouver Island’s world-famous West Coast Trail will remain closed.

Parks Canada said the trail will not be reopened without unanimous agreement from the three First Nations along it: the Bamfield-area Huu-ay-aht, the Ditidaht, who are based around Nitinat Lake, and the Port Renfrew-area Pacheedaht.

Robert Dennis, chief councillor of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation does not want the trail to reopen just yet.

“First of all, we want to be sure the virus is gone. Numbers are looking good in B.C., and that’s very encouraging to see. But with that, the health experts are all expecting a resurgence, and we don’t know when that will come, so that gives me a lot of concern,” he said. “We continue to maintain that our health and safety is or number one priority and economy is behind that.”

Health authorities have identified Indigenous communities as vulnerable in the coronavirus pandemic, and Dennis wants to see that taken in to account with any decisions to re-open.

“We have a lot of elders, and quite a few people in lower-income brackets living in crowded housing.”

RELATED: Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

RELATED: Port Renfrew reopening June 1

Memory of smallpox and tuberculosis weigh heavily in Dennis’ mind. His mother died from tuberculosis, and he was hospitalized from it.

“My grandfather told me massive graves were common when he was a child, when smallpox was killing so many people they couldn’t keep up. When I see what’s happening in New York, that really resonates with me because that’s what my grandfather told me happened here. There are so many people dying they couldn’t keep up with it. So I see things a little bit differently than perhaps an urban community would.”

When it is operational, about 7,500 hikers come annually from around the world to hike the rugged five-to-seven day, 75-kilometre (47-mile) trek, that meanders along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Port Renfrew and Bamfield. Access is capped, usually limited to May 1 through Sept. 30, and available by reservation only.

Parks Canada has requested a decision from the three nations on June 12, for possible open dates of July 10 or 17.

Separately, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which includes 14 West Coast Vancouver Island nations has met to talk about re-opening their territories. A motion to open will be discussed at their June 9 meeting.

For more news from the Island and beyond delivered directly to your email inbox, click here.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pacific Rim National Park would reopen on June 1. Other national parks will open on the 1st, but Pacific Rim partially opens on the 4th.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusHikingParks Canada

Just Posted

Court strikes down Sidney’s denial of proposed cannabis store

Justice Jennifer Power orders municipality to reconsider application and pay court costs

Feds fund safe drug supply pilot program for Cowichan

The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises

Product seized from a Victoria cannabis compassion club for a second time

The Cannabis Buyers Club has been operating on Johnson Street since 2001

Missing ‘Where is my Dad?’ sign returned in Port Alberni

Good Samaritan finds Lisa Petterson’s stolen sign, returns it to Merville woman

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

VicPD seeking witnesses for fatal crash on Hillside Avenue

A pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, where she later died

Quacker of a conundrum: Case of the missing rubber duckies in Parksville

Couple hopes for return of their stolen yellow friends

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Matching donor steps up as Victoria Hospitals Foundation postpones annual gala

Last year the gala raised $1 million for priority leading-edge imaging equipment

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

Cowichan Tribes and Town of Ladysmith get flood mitigation funding

Money is part of $3.46 million announced Thursday

COVID-19: Health Canada recalls 23 hand sanitizers brands

Multiple types of unauthorized industrial-grade ethanol have been found in hand sanitizer products

Most Read