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GRCA, townships move to reopen outdoor rec facilities

With loosening of coronavirus-related restrictions, Ontarians now have more options for enjoying outdoor recreation activities at parks and beaches. Municipalities and agencies such as the Grand River Conservation Authority have gradually been reopening locations.

The opening of GRCA locations over the weekend coincided with the overdue arrival of sunny and warm temperatures. The heatwave may have driven more people out of doors, but precautions and restrictions remain in effect, notes spokesperson Lisa Stocco.

Lower capacity numbers are part of that equation, as the agency looks to maintain physical distancing at its conservation areas, she added: “gatehouses will remain closed at this time. Visitors without a Grand River parks membership pass will be required to pay by cash (exact change only) in payment boxes located at the gatehouse.”

Regular admission prices remain in effect for all locations. At both Bellwood Lake and Conestoga Lake, the waters are open for boating, with fees to be paid upon exiting the parks.

People visiting GRCA sites are encouraged to follow a prescribed list: plan short visits of an hour to an hour and a half; maintain six feet for physical distancing; keep pets on a leash; leave and come back at another time if the trails or areas get too crowded or aren’t able to maintain physical distancing; use only open paths that are close to home, if possible; park only in designated areas – if parking lots are full, return at another time.

It is prohibited for visitors to engage in group activities, gather in parking lots and use the park and picnic benches, Stocco pointed out.

“All buildings and onsite facilities, including washrooms, gatehouses, picnic areas, playgrounds and beaches in these areas remain closed at this time. In addition, no garbage receptacles will be available, and visitors are asked to carry any garbage or pet waste out with them. In alignment with government and public health unit directions, information has been shared on the GRCA website and social media regarding activities that can and cannot take place on GRCA properties,” she said.

Last week also saw the townships open up outdoor facilities, including sports fields (for non-team use), dog parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, skateboard park, picnic shelters and benches.

Provincial orders require that individuals using these amenities, except for members of the same household, are to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres or six feet. Public gathering limits still remain at five. 

All municipal playgrounds, park washrooms, outdoor gym equipment, splashpads and pools remain closed.

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