Recreational vehicles at the Surfside RV Resort, as seen from Parksville Community Park, on April 26. (Mandy Moraes photo)

Snowbirds flying away after a winter spent in the mid-Island instead of the U.S.

Travel restrictions brought more people to Island RV parks, new restrictions pushing them away

The snowbirds are beginning to fly away.

On the advice of the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnsworth, issued a new order prohibiting non-essential travel between the three regional health zones in B.C., as an attempt to further curb the transmission of COVID-19. This order came into effect on April 23 and will stay in effect until May 25.

Susan Lafauci of Parksville’s Paradise Fun Park said before April 23, their RV park was completely booked up for May long weekend. Since the new order came into effect, they’ve had to call customers back and cancel reservations.

“So that took care of a lot of people. And we have bookings for pretty much the whole summer, but if this carries on things are going to get worse,” she said. “If they’re on the Island, we’ve said they can still come because that’s what we understood.”

According to Lafauci, Paradise Fun Park was open over the winter, something they hadn’t done before, for snowbirds already on Vancouver Island who said they couldn’t go home. Of their 30 open sites, they have had approximately 14 ‘off-Island’ visitors stay.

“In a normal year with no COVID, we get people from all over,” she said.

READ MORE: Camping close to home still permitted under B.C. travel ban: Henry

Shawn Bennett, the general manager of Parksville’s Surfside RV Resort, said they haven’t accepted reservations from visitors north of Qualicum or south of Nanaimo for weeks.

Through most of the winter, however, he said they were full of snowbirds. Since the beginning of April, however, many of them left when the business switched over from off-season rates to ‘shoulder’ season rates. Many of which, Bennett said, were already there for the six-month maximum stay.

“We follow the city bylaw of maximum 180 days. But that said, some of them did extend and we let them for two weeks. Most of them were exiting April 1 but we had, say a dozen people, leave just prior to April 15. And now we’ve had three people that were concerned about not being able to get off the Island when they needed to… they figured it would be too risky for May long weekend.”

They have had people from within B.C. stay through the winter, as part of the snowbird population.

“And that’s people from the Lower Mainland, from the interior, and all these people that are typically going somewhere south of the border from October through April,” he said.

The president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island, Anthony Everett, confirmed there are normally plenty of snowbirds in Parksville Qualicum Beach, and perhaps more so in 2020/21 due to travel restrictions.

“Having said that though, anybody already here is still subject to those orders. The advisory used strong language around staying local, staying where you are. And then if you do need to travel, that it’s within your health area – in our case, that’s the Island.”

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mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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