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Monday, March 30, 2020
COVID-19 Pandemic Coverage

Parks closed, but not everyone respecting social distancing

While health officials have advised Canadians to remain active despite social distancing and self-isolation related to the coronavirus outbreak, they warn against doing so in groups.

Municipal, provincial and national parks have all been closed, though passive use has remained an option. But even then, some people have not been following physical distancing guidelines. This has been documented with social media postings and with sightings at the likes of municipal playgrounds, which pose the dual problem of people congregating at them and the issue of many hands on the equipment.

In Woolwich, the closure of parks and playgrounds followed the shuttering of municipal facilities. While building doors can be locked, the township doesn’t have the resources to monitor its open spaces, said recreation director Ann McArthur, noting signs have been put up at playgrounds.

“Municipalities will not be enforcing the closure of playgrounds at this time,” she said this week. “As guided by Public Health, the community is expected to practise physical distancing and refrain from using facilities that are closed in a collective effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

It’s a similar situation in Wellesley Township, said director of recreation Danny Roth.

“We have put signs up, and posted on our webpage and social media, similar to what other municipalities are doing. We can’t police our playgrounds and parks all day and night long,  we just need the public to recognize and accept the reason they are closed.”

The Grand River Conservation Authority this week closed all of its parks until April 6. The organization has also noticed some people failing to adhere to the COVID-19 measures.

“Our parks staff have observed an increase in visitors. While many visitors have respected social distancing measures, our staff have reported concerns with some large groups of people, illegal parking and people entering areas that are marked as closed,” said GRCA communications manager Lisa Stocco in a release.

“We are urging the community to respect the closures,” she said. “With the gates closed, and limited staff, we are reminding the public that it will make it difficult for emergency services personnel to assist people within the parks in the event of an emergency. Anyone who chooses to ignore the closure is putting their own safety, and potentially the safety of others at risk.”

No pedestrian traffic will be permitted within Grand River Parks during this period of time, and those who enter will be trespassing. Municipal partners are being made aware of these closures.

Those who choose to ignore the closures and park outside of the parks on municipal roadways may be subject to fines, said Stocco.

The province last week closed all of its parks until April 30, as did Parks Canada for all the spaces under its jurisdiction.

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