Kanaka Creek Regional Park. (Metro Vancouver/Special to The News)

Winter weather doesn’t discourage park users

Metro park use doubles in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

One thing we can still do during the COVID-19 pandemic is go to the park, and we are. In record numbers.

Even in the winter, Metro Vancouver’s regional parks continue to set new visitor records. In January 2021, Regional Parks recorded over 1.2 million visits — more than double the 550,000 visits that took place in January 2020.

In Maple Ridge’s Kanaka Creek Regional Park the visitor numbers rose 87 per cent this year, from 28,200 visitors in the month of January 2020, to a whopping 52,800 visitors last month.

The Pitt River Greenway in Pitt Meadows is growing in popularity even faster, up 136 per cent. The trail beside the Fraser River saw 6,900 visitors in January 2020, and 16,230 last month, according to Metro.

The busy month follows a record-setting year in 2020, when residents turned to Metro Vancouver’s regional parks as safe outlets for exercise and to connect with nature and others. Regional parks saw 16.5 million visits last year — an increase of 38 per cent from 2019, when there were 11.9 million visits.

“For so many residents to use regional parks in the winter month of January shows how valuable these green spaces are for our communities,” said Metro Vancouver Director John McEwen, chair of the Regional Parks Committee.

“Residents rely on these spaces for exercise and well-being, and parks are also important in our fight against climate change, which is why continuing to expand parks and greenways remains a priority.”

In the past 50 years, Metro Vancouver’s regional parks system has grown from 3,835 hectares to more than 16,740 hectares and today consists of 23 regional parks, five greenways, two ecological conservancy areas and two regional park reserves.

In 2018, Metro Vancouver doubled its Regional Parks Land Acquisition Fund to better enable the regional district to acquire land in the face of growing development pressures. In October 2020, the Metro Vancouver Board approved the 2021 budget which includes an additional $4 million annual tax requisition to further boost this fund.

Purchasing tracts of forests and wetlands also supports Metro Vancouver’s Climate 2050 strategy as these lands can capture and store large amounts of carbon. Parkland purchases contributed to Metro Vancouver’s achievement of corporate carbon neutrality in 2019.

READ ALSO: Metro announces 56 hectares of new park land in Pitt Meadows

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Maple Ridge’s Kanaka Creek park expands

Between 2018 and 2020, Metro Vancouver added more than 200 hectares of protected parkland to its system.

“Metro Vancouver has kept regional parks open throughout the pandemic so residents can safely enjoy the outdoors,” said Sav Dhaliwal, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors. “We ask all park visitors to stay local and continue to respect public health directives for physical distancing, hand-washing and avoiding crowded areas.”

All Metro Vancouver regional parks are open, however backcountry trails on North Shore parks are currently closed due to unsafe winter conditions.

Parks visitors are asked to follow these guidelines:

• Choose parks in your own area – do not travel across the region

• Maintain physical distance of at least two metres from others at all times, including in parking lots

• Dispose of tissues and other waste in designated garbage bins

• Pack it in, pack it out – do not leave any items behind in parks

• Wash or sanitize hands frequently during the day and upon returning home

• Stay home if you are sick.

Have a story tip? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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