TORONTO -- Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves will reopen this week but campgrounds and beaches will continue to be off-limits for now.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at Queen’s Park on Saturday afternoon.

He said that more than 500 of Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves will open for “day-use only” as of Monday with the remaining 115 slated to open by the end of the week.

All parks facilities, including playgrounds, will remain closed.

“These places will be open for walking, hiking, bird watching and biking. People will be able to once again enjoy the outdoors in one of the many provincial parks and conservation reserves our province has to offer but please take note that access will be limited for now,” Ford said, noting that users must still adhere to physical distancing guidelines. “We are trusting people to be responsible and take this seriously so they can enjoy themselves while staying safe and healthy.”

Provincial parks and conservation reserves were ordered to close in mid-March and were not expected to reopen until at least May 31.

Their reopening somewhat ahead of schedule comes as Ontario begins to loosen some of the restrictions put into place to limit the spread of COVID-19 as part of a “gradual” plan to restart the economy.

“I want to thank Ontarians who are stepping up and doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Because of these efforts we are now able to take steps to reopen Ontario’s parks,” Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek said during Saturday’s press conference. “With the warm weather just around the corner I know that many Ontarians are looking forward to spending more time outdoors after being cooped up inside for so many weeks.”

Yurek said that while Ontarians are now being encouraged to visit provincial parks and conservation areas, advice around limited non-essential travel remains in effect. For that reason, he said that residents should only go to the provincial park or conservation area closest to them and not travel further afield.

He said that parks staff will also be monitoring to ensure that people are practicing physical distancing.