Even in the winter, Metro Vancouver's Regional Parks continue to set new visitor records. In January 2021, Regional Parks recorded over 1.2 million visits – more than double the 550,000 visits in January 2020. This follows a record-setting year in 2020 when, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents turned to Metro Vancouver's regional parks as safe outlets for exercise and to connect with nature and others. Regional parks saw 16.5 million visits last year – an increase of 38% from 2019, when there were 11.9 million visits. "For so many residents to use regional parks in the winter month of January shows how valuable these greenspaces are for our communities," said Metro Vancouver Director John McEwen, Chair of the Regional Parks Committee. "Residents rely on these spaces for exercise and well-being, and parks are also important in our fight against climate change, which is why continuing to expand parks and greenways remains a priority." In the past 50 years, Metro Vancouver's regional parks system has grown from 3,835 hectares to more than 16,740 hectares and today consists of 23 regional parks, five greenways, two ecological conservancy areas and two regional park reserves. Through the Regional Parks Land Acquisition Strategy, Metro Vancouver is working toward an extensive, connected and resilient network of parks and greenways. In 2018, Metro Vancouver doubled its Regional Parks Land Acquisition Fund to better enable the regional district to acquire land in the face of growing development pressures. On Oct. 30, 2020, the Metro Vancouver Board approved the 2021 budget which includes an additional $4 million annual tax requisition to further boost this fund. Purchasing tracts of forests and wetlands also supports Metro Vancouver's Climate 2050 strategy as these lands can capture and store large amounts of carbon. Parkland purchases contributed to Metro Vancouver's achievement of corporate carbon neutrality in 2019.Between 2018 and 2020, Metro Vancouver added more than 200 hectares of protected parkland to its system."Metro Vancouver has kept regional parks open throughout the pandemic so residents can safely enjoy the outdoors," said Sav Dhaliwal, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors. "We ask all park visitors to stay local and continue to respect public health directives for physical distancing, hand-washing and avoiding crowded areas."All Metro Vancouver regional parks are open, however backcountry trails on North Shore parks are currently closed due to unsafe winter conditions. Parks visitors are asked to follow these guidelines:Choose parks in your own area – do not travel across the regionMaintain physical distance of at least two metres from others at all times, including in parking lotsDispose of tissues and other waste in designated garbage binsPack it in, pack it out – do not leave any items behind in parksWash or sanitize hands frequently during the day and upon returning homeStay home if you are sickFor more information on how to safely enjoy Metro Vancouver's parks and greenways, visit Metro Vancouver's website.