toronto parks

Toronto is closing all parks amenities because people won't stop congregating

Toronto public health officials continue to ask that all residents (save for those providing essential services) stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which as of Wednesday afternoon has infected 319 people within the city, hospitalized 22 and killed four.

With community transmission now accounting for roughly 16 per cent of all local cases, Toronto's medical officer of health stressed during her daily press conference on Wednesday that social distancing is more important now than ever — and lamented the fact that many seem to be ignoring her recommendations.

"I have observed that people are using parks to socialize and gather in groups, and I hear form a lot of Torontonians that there's a great deal of concern that this is contributing to the spread of the virus in our community," said Dr. Eilieen de Villa.

"Today I recommended that all amenities in local parks be closed."

Based on Dr. de Villa's advice and effective immediately, the city of Toronto is closing all of the following amenities to members of the public in an effort to encourage social distancing (because clearly people aren't getting the message on their own):

  • all city-owned playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts
  • off-leash dog parks
  • skateboard and BMX parks
  • picnic areas
  • outdoor exercise equipment
  • parking lots attached to the parks system
  • other various parks amenities

Beginning tomorrow, city staff will begin locking gates, taping off playgrounds and amenities, securing basketball nets, and installing signs to alert the public of these closures.

"Where fencing or gates exists, they will be locked. Unfenced playground structures will be signed and taped off," reads a press release from the city. "Parks green spaces will remain accessible, but all amenities within City parks will be closed."

The move, while disappointing to some, appears necessary as reports continue to stream in of people gathering at off-leash dog parks, sports fields and playgrounds.

"While the public has been advised that fresh air and exercise is good if you are not ill, and if so, you should stay home, it has been observed that individuals are using parks and their amenities to congregate," reads the city's release.

"The public has also shared its concerns about how parks amenities are supporting that congregation. The City is urging all residents, who are not performing essential or critical services, to stay home."

In addition to advising the closure of public park facilities, Dr. de Villa is asking the operators of all condominiums, schools and Toronto Community Housing Corporation buildings to close off their playgrounds and public gathering spaces.

When asked why she recommended closing parks today, as opposed to earlier in the outbreak, Dr. de Villa explained that the city had been "trying to strike a balance between reducing virus spread and giving people the opportunity to make use of the great amenities we have in our city."

"We were hoping people in our city might be able to find an appropriate balance between enjoying those amenities and enjoying our parks, while at the same time respecting the request to remain six feet apart from all others," she explained.

"Unfortunately, it appears that that wasn’t the case... people weren't respecting that request."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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