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Lower Similkameen Indian Band shuts popular beach to tourists

Lower Similkameen Indian Band shuts popular beach to tourists

Sophie Carrigan Gray

Local Journalism Initiative

An Indigenous community in B.C.’s interior region has closed a popular beach to visitors this summer.

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) announced on July 9 they are closing Chopaka Bridge Beach to outside visitors this summer in an effort to keep COVID-19 out of their community.

“As we get closer to the hot and dry summer months, we expect that recreational activities and social gatherings will be on the increase at the Chopaka Bridge and beach area,” said the LSIB in a public community notice posted to their website. “Although the beach area itself is LSIB Reserve land, it is known to draw many outside people throughout the summer months and in many cases, it becomes overcrowded.”

The Band will restrict use of the area to LSIB band members only, to prevent the popular beach from becoming a gathering site to reduce the chance of community exposure to COVID-19. 

“The upcoming summer months, combined with many outside visitors coming into our region and area, presents a major concern for our community,” continued the notice.

First Nations are considered higher risk for COVID-19 due to a number of factors like a high level of pre-existing health conditions and a lack of access to health care. Although recent numbers show B.C. First Nations have done well to keep COVID-19 out of communities so far, many are making the decision to close off to tourists for the summer.

“Our decision is based on our elected responsibility for keeping our community members safe … and minimizing any threat of the COVID-19 coming into our community,” said the notice.

Signs will be posted at the site to alert visitors to the closure. 

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