Officials have taken issue of large gatherings at Peace Arch Park. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but not everyone has the butterflies.

The park, which is located in an international zone between the U.S. and Canadian border in South Surrey, is the only place in the province where Americans and Canadians can connect without crossing a port of entry.

The border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed to all non-essential travel since mid-March. Last month, the closure was extended until at least June 21. The provincial government reopened Peace Arch Park for day use on March 14.

RELATED: Canada-U.S. border to stay closed to non-essential travel until June 21

Brooklyn Schulz, from Abbotsford, and Eli Bell, from White Salmon, Wash., had a picnic under a tree in the park Sunday morning.

Sitting under a quilt, it was the first time the couple got to see each other in more than five months.

The COVID-19 pandemic and border closure has created a number of challenges for the young couple, but they described being elated they could finally meet.

In fact, the Sunday picnic was one of the first dates of their very new relationship.

“I asked her to date on Friday. We were getting to know each other, and I wanted to ask her in person. I didn’t want to ask over FaceTime,” Bell said.

The couple said they have been relying on FaceTime, phone calls and other messaging apps to stay connected. While waiting for the border to reopen, they have been interacting through a number of online games such as Battleship, Uno and Cribbage.

Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is mulling over the idea of allowing U.S. border-closure exceptions for families split between the neighbouring countries.

During a news conference, Trudeau told reporters that his government has received reports about families separated by the ongoing border closures to all but essential travel, specifically those with partners or children stuck in the U.S. because of work.

“We have been looking at ways of perhaps allowing close family members, children, spouses, or parents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents to be able to reunite under strict conditions through a slight modification of the directives for the Canadian Border Services Agency,” Trudeau said.

There was about four tents pitched throughout the park Sunday morning and a group of about 12 people gathered with lawn chairs, tents, coolers and other supplies.

RELATED: Influx of cross-border visitors to Peace Arch Park sparks concern COVID-19 could spike

Recently, large gatherings in Peace Arch Park has been a point of concern for some local officials. However, the number of park goers Sunday pales in comparison to what was reported on the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

RCMP Cpl. Daniel Michaud, media relations for federal enforcement, said there were “hundreds” of people in the park over the Memorial Day weekend, which was a surprise.

“The influx… we didn’t really see that coming,” Michaud told PAN.

Semiahmoo First Nation Coun. Joanne Charles raised concerns with government and health authorities last week, after visitors from both sides of the border jumped at the opportunity the park reopening presented to reconnect with friends and family – with the majority foregoing federal and provincial social-distancing and self-isolation guidelines.

“We have American families or American individuals coming up here to visit with Canadians and not abiding by the federal quarantine order by quarantining when they come to Canada.

“Unfortunately, that could come with a number of serious health risks for each of them and/or whoever they’re working with.

“But, they’re in an international park. I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to say it’s a grey area.”

Michaud agreed the park – 17 hectares situated between the two ports of entry – is “no man’s land.” As long as visitors stay within its boundaries, they can move freely between the two countries.

“But there’s still this restriction of crossing borders and it becomes important for the spread (of COVID-19),” Michaud said. “We don’t want this to be an area where the pandemic can start picking up,” he said.

– with files from Tracy Holmes

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Eli Bell, from White Salmon, Wash., and Brooklyn Schulz, from Abbotsford, reconnect in Peace Arch Park on Sunday. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Bags of dog feces donated to Princeton charity thrift store

A Princeton Crisis Assistance Centre volunteer was made almost physically ill after… Continue reading

Penticton Regional Hospital issues fitness challenge in support of kidney treatment

Challenge to support Renal Department will continue until Aug. 30

COLUMN: Library branch presents Virtual Film Club

Summerland branch of Okanagan Regional Library to show next film on July 10

AlleyCats desperate to re-home three cats

The non-profit is looking for a forever home for three special cats

Princeton woman finds seven pound mushroom

A Princeton woman, who was walking with family members looking for ladybugs,… Continue reading

RCMP brass addresses concerns over recent actions of police in the Southeast District

Southeast District Commander wants to increase Police and Crisis Team program

Driver ticketed and hospitalized after highway crash near Sicamous

The two-vehicle collision took place near Bernie Road on June 26.

Driver walks away after rolling McLaren on Highway 5A

RCMP is looking for witnesses to the crash that happened on Canada Day

Ottawa jail inmates argue anti-COVID measures a breach of charter rights

The prisoners allege guards did not wear masks until April 25

Epstein pal arrested, accused of luring girls for sex abuse

Ghislaine Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein for years

Okanagan woman wins international nail art competition

Giselle Caballero said the competition helped her through the COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. repairs COVID-19 emergency order for local government

Ombudsperson shut out as his recommendations implemented

More than 50,000 Coronavirus cases reported per day in US

Coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 US states

Rising rivers possible as unsettled air enters Southern Interior

Further rain and thunderstorms are a possibility as unsettled air crosses the rockies from Alberta.

Most Read