toronto parks rules

You've probably been breaking all sorts of laws just by being in Toronto parks

With more than 1,500 parks, Toronto has a wealth of public spaces to explore, but there's a good chance you've been on the wrong side of the law just by enjoying these outdoor destinations.

As politicians and activists prepare for another summer of tension over ad hoc encampments in city parks and the controversial move to install 24-hour security, there has been an increased focus on what exactly is and isn't allowed in city parks, and some of the rules set out in the Toronto Municipal Code are pretty shocking.

One of the most surprising rules is Municipal Code #608, which decrees that public parks are only open to the public from the hours of 5:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. and that tents and camping are not permitted.

This means that a late-night stroll through the park is now allowed, though it's unmistakably obvious which demographic this rule targets, and it's difficult to imagine it enforced on, say, a person in jogging attire.

Some rules egregiously target the marginalized, and others just seem entirely absurd.

Let's say someone wants to do something as innocent as climb a tree in a city park. Well, you'd better make sure you have filed the appropriate paperwork, as this activity is not allowed without a permit.

Some of the rules make a bit more sense, like one that bans hot air balloons from using city parks as takeoff and landing points. Or the one that specifically states that you aren't allowed to zap a dog with a stun gun.

I'd rather not picture the events that led to this rule being added to the books.

So for a very specific hypothetical scenario, let's say you encounter a rare rabid dog in a park charging toward you, but you aren't allowed to climb a tree or use a stun gun. Your instinct may tell you to blurt out a swear word or two, but that would also be a violation of the Toronto Municipal Code.

Even a creative distraction defence tactic like releasing helium balloons is a no-go, this type of fun also verboten in the Municipal Code.

So you're running out of options to fend off this rabid dog attack, and if on the off chance that you just so happen to be a veteran of a forgotten war from the 1800s and maybe the oldest person alive, you might have the urge to call in the cavalry.

Surprisingly, this might actually be a viable option, as apparently, riding horses is permitted in city parks as long as their clip-clopping and constant pooping don't get in the way of other parkgoers' enjoyment.

You're probably not going to get ticketed if you mind your own business, but maybe now you'll think twice about taking that late-night shortcut through the park, or perhaps you’ll hold back on that reflexive cursing if you stub your toe.

And please, even if there isn't a bylaw prohibiting it where you are, please don't use stun guns on dogs. It's really not cool.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert


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