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

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)

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

Just Posted

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Prince Rupert lawyer, Donald A. Silversides has been appointed to the BC Liberals Election Organizing Committee, announced the party on Jan 21. (Contributed photo)
Don Silversides appointed to BC Liberal election organizing committee

Prince Rupert lawyer is the current BC Liberals acting president

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Rose Sawka, a 91-year old Acropolis Manor resident received her COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 20, one day after an outbreak was declared at the long-term care facility. Her son Terry Sawka visited with her through the window, like she is seen in an Oct. 2020 photo. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Acropolis Manor COVID-19 cases jump to 20 confirmed

Prince Rupert long term care facility received vaccinations

Illicit drug use has spread in the Northern Health region and overdose emergency calls increased in Prince Rupert by 29.5 per cent from 2019 to 2020. (Photo:THE NEWS/files)
Overdose emergency calls in Prince Rupert spikes by 43.6 % in five years

Northern Health issues illicit drug use warnings

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read