Metro Vancouver parks in Langley have moved from high to extreme fire danger, but aren’t expected to close to the public.
In fact, having people in parks and on the trails will help keep them safer, said Doug Petersen, supervisor of park operations for Metro Vancouver’s east area.
“Most of the sightings and situations are reported by the public,” said Petersen. Having people in the parks means a quicker response if there is a fire.
The high-level fire risk will mean changes to park operations.
Staff will be halting “high risk” activities, anything that could case a spark. That includes most weed eating and mowing, and using large tractors.
Any work that does continue, including construction, will require fire mitigation plans signed off by the local fire department.
Visitors will be banned from heading off designated trails in Metro Vancouver parks, Petersen said.
That will put some areas completely out of reach, including the peat bog areas of Derby Reach Regional Park in northern Langley.
There have been fires in the bog in the past, and the parks department has no desire to see another one.
“Once it gets in the peat, it gets very challenging to get under control,” Petersen said.
There are also no smoking signs posted prominently by the start of most trails or parking lots. Fire pits are now completely banned, with pits in camping areas like Brae Island each marked individually with signs.
So far, things have gone well as far as preventing fires in Metro parks. Petersen said that since March there have only been four incidents.
There are no reports of people igoring signs and starting fires in pits or on the banks of the Fraser River, Petersen said.
“People understand the risks,” he said.
If there are ever park closures, they won’t be system-wide, said Sarah Lusk, a spokesperson for Metro Vancouver.
“It would be done on a case by case basis,” she said.
“We generally follow what local municipalities and fire chiefs advise us to do,” Lusk said.
Neither Langley Township nor City have any immediate plans to close parks, according to spokespeople for those municipalities.