The president of the Friends of Pulpit Rock Society says hikers should still feel free to climb the popular trail.
Dave St. Denis said the North Shore trail, arguably the most popular around Nelson, is still being frequented despite physical distance recommendations that people stay two metres apart. He said the society estimates 54,000 people hiked to Pulpit Rock last year.
“I think it’s like anything else. We can suggest to people that they distance and it can be done,” said St. Denis, who added he was about to leave for a hike up the trail with his grandchildren. “All you have to do is step off the trail when you meet somebody.”
Still, St. Denis acknowledged concern the trail may become too used for its own good during the pandemic.
An early trail was in use by hikers by the time it was first publicly referenced as Pulpit Rock in 1913. In the 1980s, the Chamber of Commerce spearheaded an easier 1.8-kilometre route to the rock that remains in use today.
The Friends of Pulpit Rock Society was formed in 2008 to establish a permanent public access point to Pulpit Rock. The majority of the route is on Crown land, save for a small area at the entrance that is owned by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Cary Gaynor, the regional district’s parks manager, said a sign has been posted at the entrance reminding visitors to keep their space. He said hikers walking down the route are also asked to yield to those on their way up.
“People have told us that they are, and people are distancing and it’s been really good in terms of people being courteous and consistent,” said Gaynor.
Gaynor said the district has also found full parking lots don’t always equal packed trails and parks.
“There are times, and Taghum Beach is another, where we go and find parking lots are fairly full but there’s not necessarily a lot of users because people are driving individually in single cars.”
Recreation Sites and Trails BC has closed 49 trails throughout the province as well as all camping sites.
Gaynor said the district is in regular communication with the province about the status of local sites, which under RDCK management also include the Nelson Salmo Great Northern Trail (the Rail Trail) and Galena Regional Trail near New Denver.
He doesn’t believe there will need to be any more closures at least around Nelson. But Gaynor admits that could easily change.
“At this point we have felt people can do this with keeping that distance between each other on the way up,” said Gaynor. “We’ll be monitoring that closely and if things tend to change then we’ll have to change our directive.”
Preliminary work meanwhile continues on the new Lyon’s Bluff trail, which the Pulpit Rock Society said will begin at a trail head on the North Shore one kilometre north of the Nelson Bridge and eventually connect across Elephant Mountain with the Pulpit Rock route.
St. Denis said he hopes hikers are considering all the trails around Nelson when heading outside. Anyone concerned about physical distancing at Pulpit Rock, he said, should try the Morning Mountain area.
“That’s the beautiful part of living in our area is we can go out and not be crowded,” he said. “There are lots of other trails.”