toronto parks open

Toronto parks are open and here's what you're allowed to do in them right now

Toronto parks are open right now, but there are rules pertaining to how you can actually use them.

As winter fades away and governments slowly lift pandemic lockdown measures, downtown Toronto residents without backyards (read: most of us) are eager to get outside.

A lot of confusion remains, however, over which green spaces we're allowed to visit and what we can do once we get there.

At one end of the spectrum, we have groups of people posting up in Trinity Bellwoods Park for the day with picnic blankets and tall cans. At the other end are people sneering at lined-up shoppers from their windows, calling 311 to snitch on the homeless, and tweeting about how everyone who jogs near the waterfront deserves to die.

Some of the things listed above are actually illegal right now (I'm talking about you, Bellwoods bros).

Most, however, are A-okay in the eyes of law enforcement officials, so long as those who partake in such things as outdoor exercise and going to the grocery store practice physical distancing.

Rules are changing day by day as Ontario moves forward with its phased plan to reopen parts of the economy, but as of Friday, May 8, visitors to Toronto's more than 1,500 parks should note the following:

  • Gatherings of more than five people are not currently permitted anywhere in Ontario, excluding families who live together.
     
  • People in Toronto are both allowed (and even encouraged by some public health professionals for the purpose of sustaining mental and physical wellness) to go outside every day for exercise and fresh air, so long as they keep two metres away from anyone they don't live with.
     
  • Park-goers can make use of open green spaces, but all park amenities are closed. This means that playgrounds, tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, outdoor exercise fixtures and anything else cordoned off by yellow tape or fencing is off-limits.
     
  • The popular cherry blossom groves in High Park and Trinity Bellwoods are also off-limits, as indicated by fences erected to surround them. Breaking into one of said groves to, say, take photos for Instagram, could leave you with more than $1,000 in fines to pay.
     
  • The entirety of High Park will remain closed throughout the peak bloom period of cherry blossom season.
     
  • Lingering anywhere is not encouraged, but yes, you can now use a park bench as a place to rest without getting fined.
     
  • The city reserves the right to close a park or any part of it in the interest of public safety at any time.
     
  • All regular city bylaws applying to the use of parks — such as those pertaining to amplified noise, event permits, illegal dumping, illegal vending, alcohol consumption, fireworks and criminal activity — are still fully in effect on top of emergency pandemic orders.

As it stands now, anyone caught violating provincial orders, such as those prohibiting groups of more than five from congregating, are liable to be fined up anywhere from $750 to $100,000 and jailed for one year under Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Those who violate municipal emergency orders, such as those prohibiting the use park amenities and mandating the practice of physical distancing, can receive tickets from city bylaw enforcement officers that carry fines of up to $5,000 upon conviction.

"Park and ravine green spaces remain accessible, but all amenities within City parks are closed. If you are visiting a park space, please practice physical distancing," wrote the City of Toronto in its most-recent update on park usage.

"While in a park, residents must not use park amenities or congregate in groups. Dogs can be taken into park spaces on a leash. Please do not put yourself or loved ones or neighbours at risk of exposure."

Bylaw enforcement and police officers have issued 625 tickets since April 3, according to numbers released by the city on Thursday. Officers have also "spoken to" more than 14,300 people in parks to warn or inform them of current prohibitions.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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