Hundreds of people flocked to White Pine beach in Port Moody Saturday as soaring temperatures and the urge to get out of the house proved overwhelming for many who have been under self-isolation since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
The first weekend since Premier John Horgan announced a phased plan to ease social distancing measures and re-open the economy, many beachgoers had mixed emotions about the pace of government measures and even where they were.
Vehicles lined the roads long before entering Belcarra Regional Park. By the afternoon, Metro Vancouver staff had blocked off traffic to the parking facilities near the beach. One staff member who was not authorized to speak to media said it was the busiest Mother’s Day weekend at the beach he had ever seen.
At first glance, the beach crowd could have been plucked out of a regular, packed summer weekend, with families grilling, clusters of paddle boaters and kayakers bobbing in the distance and children squealing with delight by the water’s edge.
But not everyone was comfortable with the crowds.
“I didn’t expect it. It’s nerve-wracking,” said Andre, a Tri-City warehouse worker who didn’t want his last name published for fear of a social backlash.
“Florida’s beaches are packed, they’re spreading the virus during spring break. The only difference is I’m not wearing a MAGA hat.”
An essential worker in the food supply business, he was joined with about 20 of his co-workers, a group that has become his own “pandemic pod.”
“This is one of my first outings outside of work and going to the grocery store. This whole thing is taboo. I feel like a hypocrite,” he said.
But for many people who spoke with the Tri-City News, they said, despite the crowds, most were staying within their own social bubble and very few were saying ‘Hi’ to strangers at all.
Park rangers patrolled the beach and pathways about every half hour, but rarely did they speak to anyone or give out any warnings over social distancing, according to many at the beach.
Chris Chan, who came up from Burnaby with his 18-month-old daughter Eloise, had visited the beach for the first time the day before.
“It’s only my second time here but it’s twice as busy today,” he said, adding, “People are staying their two metres apart.”
Brad Comis of Port Moody and Taryn Coulson of Vancouver have been social isolating together since the pandemic hit. For both of them, life has been oddly normal throughout the whole thing, if not slightly subdued. Both have been working from home, Comis designing bicycles for Norco and Coulson working as part of the human resources team at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
While neither said they live particularly extraverted lives in normal times, getting outside is part of their daily routine. Both are anxious to see their options open up again when BC Parks re-open for day use again later this month.
But until then, “Where’s everybody going to go?” questioned Coulson sweeping her arm towards the beach. “People are pretty spread out. It feels better than the grocery store.”
Between the sunny weather and nobody wearing masks, you can easily forget about the pandemic for a few hours, she said.
“Still,” Coulson added. “It’s something to be cautious about.”