WTIP talks COVID-19 impacts on 2020 paddling season with Quetico officials
These are anxious times as the paddling and hiking community wait to hear what the US Forest Service will announce regarding the start of the paddling season in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As of April 11, no official decision has been announced regarding entry or access to the BWCA amid ongoing coronavirus concerns.
As many local and regional businesses, in addition to the many thousands who enjoy recreating in canoe country wait for a choice or news on the BWCA paddling season, WTIP is sharing a Q&A interview we did recently with Quetico Provincial Park Superintendent Trevor Gibb.
Quetico, like all parks in Ontario, is closed at this time.
WTIP Question: Can you tell us the status of Quetico Provincial Park and if it is open to the public, including U.S. citizens?
Trevor Gibb Answer: As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, public safety and the health and well-being of visitors and staff in Ontario Parks is our top priority.
All Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves are closed to the public for all recreational activities from March 19th to April 30th, including Quetico Provincial Park. This closure applies to all visitors, including Americans.
By closing provincial parks and conservation reserves for all activities, including paddling, and discouraging non-essential travel to our parks, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is doing its part to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Q: Is it possible Quetico could be closed when the paddling season starts this year?
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, public safety and the health and well-being of visitors and staff in Ontario Parks is our top priority. It is still too early to predict the future impact of COVID-19 on Ontario Parks including paddling at Quetico; however, at this time we are accepting future reservations beyond April 30, 2020.
We are asking park visitors who are making or have made a reservation beyond April 30, 2019 to continue to visit OntarioParks.com for the most up-to-date information.
Q: When would the park typically open for travelers, namely people entering from the U.S. side of the border?
The backcountry of Quetico is normally open year-round and the first paddlers from south of the border arrive not long after ice out. Park ranger stations at Quetico typically open on the 3rd Friday in May (Canadian Victoria Day weekend).
It is still too early to predict the future impact of COVID-19 on Ontario Parks and Quetico Provincial Park.
Q: If permits were booked in advance, what would happen to those reservations if the park is closed?
Ontario Parks will cancel all impacted reservations if the closure is extended. The cancellation process will be done automatically and there is no need for visitors to contact Ontario Parks to receive a refund. We ask that they do not attempt to cancel their reservation online, as this may trigger a cancellation fee.
Q: Does the border need to reopen for U.S. citizens to enter Quetico through places like Cache Bay or Prairie Portage even if they have a Remote Area Border Crossing permit and a reservation for the park?
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, we understand that the United States and Canada are temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders. The non-essential travel includes travel that is considered tourism and recreational in nature.
People should visit the Canadian Border Services Agency website for accurate and timely information about the U.S.-Canada joint initiative at www.cbsa.ca.
Q: Is there any other information you would like to share about Quetico Park at this time?
When it is safe to do so and the park re-opens, we hope that our all our visitors including our American neighbors will re-connect with nature in Quetico Provincial Park.
WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs conducted this interivew with Quetico Superintendent Trevor Gibb.