More than 70 tickets and fines issued to those ignoring temporary closure

By Steve Hubrecht

BC Parks is reminding the Columbia Valley public once again to stay out of Lussier hot springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park, which has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The reminder comes as B.C. is weathering a second wave of the pandemic, and was issued in part because many people have been ignoring the closure and visiting the natural hot springs.

“Issues related to use of Lussier hot springs have been ongoing since it’s closure in accordance with provincial health orders (in March 2020),” a spokesperson with provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy told the Pioneer, adding so far 73 violation tickets with fines and five written warnings have issued at the site.

Things were bad enough that BC Parks put chain link fencing and a gate at the main path to the hot springs in September 2020, followed by vehicle deterrent boulders in October 2020. But people unhappy with the closure have found ways around the obstacles, and have repeatedly done their best to destroy them.

“Fencing, gates, and locks continue to be damaged to enable unauthorized access and have been replaced four times since closure…the entrance gate (which is swingable) continues to be damaged and continues to require repairs due to the vandalism,” said the spokesperson.

BC Parks put up signs at the hot springs, and on Highway 93/95 at the turnoff to Whiteswan Provincial Park and the Lussier hot springs, but these also continue to be wrecked and sometimes removed by vandals altogether.

The province is not taking these infractions or the flagrant flouting of provincial health orders lightly, with the result that it has adopted an inter-agency approach, and the Conservation Officer Service and the RCMP are now helping BC Parks dealing with the increasing trespass and vandalism. 

 “Anyone found in a closed area of a park is in contravention of the Park Act and will be fined,” read a provincial press release on the ongoing issue, adding local hot springs experiences are available nearby in Fairmont and Radium, both of which have developed facilities with the ability to ensure appropriate physical distancing. 

 “It’s unfortunate that people are not following the guidelines. Until things changes, we need to follow the rules,” said Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok. “When they put up a chain-link fence and put up signs saying ‘stay out’, people need to stay out.”