Extreme fire danger closes parks in Delta

NORTH DELTA – Some of North Delta’s finest walking trails are now off limits after the municipality has indefinitely closed some of its best parks due to hazardous fire conditions.


This past Monday Delta’s director of parks and recreation closed Watershed Park, Cougar Canyon Nature Reserve, North 40 Park Reserve and the Delta Nature Reserve to the public until further notice after the fire danger rating was upgraded from high to extreme.


Delta firefighters, police officers and bylaw staff will be patrolling the parks and access points to Burns Bog to make sure no "unauthorized activities" take place and violators will be charged with trespassing, which carries a $200 fine.


The closure, depending on how long it lasts, poses serious challenges for the Burns Bog Conservation Society, which hosts summer camps for children at the Delta Nature Reserve from July 2 to Aug. 29, International Bog Day public tours on July 25 and the annual Jog for the Bog trail run on July 26.


The society’s president, Eliza Olson, doesn’t agree with the closure because letting people on the trails means more "eyes on the ground" looking for fires before they get out of hand.


"Metro Vancouver has not closed any of its parks and they do have bogs as well," she said.


Meantime, the BBCS is looking into holding the Jog for the Bog at Westview Park instead.


"I’m suggesting since that’s not closed that’s where they might put it," Olson said.


Last year more than 200 people participated in the jog, with proceeds helping to pay for trail maintenance and BBCS programs.


Delta’s closure order is also forcing the BBCS to look for a new location for its popular summer ecology camps for children.


"We’re trying to find a school, but it’s still not the same experience," Olson said. "It’s unfortunate that experience is being sacrificed."


Olson said the International Bog Day public tours will "probably" have to be cancelled.


Delta Mayor Lois Jackson commiserated.


"Everybody’s impacted, it’s not just them," she said. "I sympathize with those looking forward to programs there but this really does take precedence, I’m afraid."


Burns Bog has had some spectacular fires over the years, in 1977, two in 1990, and in 1994, 1996 and 2005.


Surrey had not closed any parks by press time Wednesday. Parks staff are working closely with the fire department to monitor the risk, said Owen Croy, Surrey’s manager of parks.