Fewer people visited Kootenay National Park (KNP) this summer. The obvious reason: COVID-19. There’s never good timing for a global pandemic, but for KNP, the timing was especially inconvenient given the number of activities and events planned for the park’s centennial celebration.

“Parks Canada data shows that visitation to Kootenay National Park during the summer operating season was lower in 2020 than in previous years,” said Jed Cochrane, Parks Canada Visitor Experience Manager.

“Parks Canada temporarily suspended visitor services at its national park places in March to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors, and to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Cochrane. “In June, Parks Canada began the gradual resumption of services.”

Last week, the federal government expressed in its highly anticipated “Speech from the Throne” the feared second COVID-19 wave has already arrived. “We’re on the brink of a Fall that could be much worse than the Spring,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

It’s unclear when the international market will return to recreate in Canada’s national parks. Recent indications suggest the Canada-U.S. border won’t reopen for visitors until November. The current restriction on non-essential travel across the border expires October 21st. “We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” said Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Spokesperson Angela Anderson, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook her organization isn’t expecting international visitors to return until 2021.

Parks Canada marches on. “We welcome Canadians to Kootenay National Park during its centennial year,” said Cochrane. “And encourage all visitors to plan ahead, drive safely, and come prepared with hand sanitizer and masks.”