Wells Gray Park open to visitors after 16-day precautionary closure

By Jill Sperling
July 25, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: July 25, 2017 - 5:30pm

KAMLOOPS — For 16 days employees of the Wells Gray Park Information Centre had to bear the bad news that the park was closed. 

"The staff have been busy trying to find other things for them to do, trying to re-route holidays for people who fully expected to be in the park," said Information Centre Manager, Tay Briggs. "Businesses have been losing bookings, accommodations have suffered, and actually people who had planned to be here even in August have canceled because there was no surety the park would be open."

WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling

Although the park was closed on July 9, Briggs said it took nearly a week for visitor numbers to decline. 

"As it is now, our visitor numbers are way down, below 50 per cent to the Information Centre," Briggs said. "It's going to take just as long to get those numbers back, so we have some work cut out for us."

Campgrounds that typically host hundreds of park visitors throughout the summer were also impacted. 

"I would say there's maybe about a 70 percent impact for us," said Annmarie Heybregts, owner of Clearwater Valley Resort and KOA Campground. "We did have a lot of the evacuees here, so that did help keep us going for quite a while."

People from all over the world travel to Wells Gray Park to experience its beauty, but as news spread about the park's closure, so did misinformation. 

"When you close the park completely due to wildfire hazard then it's a natural jump, especially when that information is shared thousands of times, that there must be fire in the park, I think that's a natural jump," Briggs said.

"We've heard a lot of rumours, there's a lot of incoming agents who just assumed that Wells Gray Park had burned."

While the park's re-opening is happy news for those still planning their visit, it comes two weeks too late for thousands of others.

Wildfire officials warn busy season still to come