In Mayor John Tory’s latest efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, all Toronto playgrounds and park amenities will be closed to the public effective immediately.
This news comes just days after Mayor Tory declared a state of emergency in the city and more cases are being reported in Toronto daily, with numbers expected to increase in the days ahead as more cases are being spread through the community.
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Tory made the announcement Wednesday afternoon and said that he knows this move will cause “further discomfort and disruption.” However, the steps are based on the strong recommendation of the City’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
“As mayor, I know how important our parks are to area residents. They are the hearts of so many of our neighbourhoods across the city. They are some of the best parts of our city,” said Tory.
Effective immediately, all City-owned playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor exercise equipment and other park amenities, as well as parking lots attached to its parks system, will be closed.
Tory said that while he knows these are some of the best parts of the city, playgrounds and other park amenities are gathering places and the more that people gather, the more COVID-19 will spread in the community, putting lives at risk.
Starting Thursday, signage will be erected across Toronto’s park’s amenities to advise of closures, including playgrounds. Where fencing or gates exists, they will be locked. Unfenced playground structures will be signed and taped off.
However, park green spaces will remain accessible for the time being.
Dr. de Villa is also urging condominium boards, all Toronto schools, and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to close its playgrounds and parks amenities to limit public congregation and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Parks Forestry and Recreation staff will be locking gates, taping off playgrounds and amenities, securing basketball nets, and affixing signage over the next several days, with 75% of planned completion by March 27. Work will continue throughout the weekend.
Furthermore, municipal bylaws give the General Manager of Parks Forestry and Recreation the authority to close parks amenities. Violations of municipal bylaws related to accessing a closed, City-owned parks amenity vary depending on the offence but can result in fines of up to $5,000.