Toronto to reopen amenities like basketball courts, picnic shelters in hundreds of parks
A girl tries a handstand in a Toronto park near a playground closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
TORONTO -- Some amenities in hundreds of parks across Toronto will reopen this week, including basketball courts, baseball diamonds and picnic pavilions.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said at a news conference on Wednesday that amenities in more than 850 parks will start to reopen before this weekend following their closure in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is great news for all Toronto residents who enjoy our parks,” he told reporters. “We are relying on people to be personally responsible and keep their distance from others ... we don’t want to go back, we want to keep making progress.”
Tory said that city staff have already reopened five BMX locations, 14 skateboard parks and four disc golf locations on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the city reopened off-leash dog parks.
“They will be subject to, as all sports facilities will be, quite specific physical distancing rules,” the mayor said. “All of these will be open subject to conditions consistent with provincial rules.”
By this weekend, picnic shelters, soccer and multi-use outdoor fields, baseball diamonds, and basketball courts will reopen.
Tory stressed that the facilities are open for casual use only and not for team sports, unless the game is between members of the same household.
“They are not permitted to be used for organized sports of any kind and we do have to rely on people’s common sense,” he said. “I have confidence in the people of Toronto that they can figure this out.”
The city is also preparing to open the more than 600 tennis courts this weekend. Tory said that the reopening of amenities will continue into next week, as staff also work to open lawn bowling facilities and outdoor bocce.
The city said that signage is being installed at close to park amenities to remind people about physical distancing and crowding.
“People must always stay two metres (six feet) apart while visiting the city’s parks,” the city said. “If a resident arrives at an amenity that is crowded, they are advised to wait until there is enough space to physically distance or return at another time.”
The parking lots of many parks are also scheduled to reopen this week, but the city says that parking at waterfront areas will remain closed. High Park will also remain closed to traffic on the weekends.
“We are being pragmatic about this and opening parking lots on a case-by-case basis based on what we believe will be safe,” Tory said.
Other park amenities, including playgrounds, outdoor exercise equipment, swimming pools and splash pads will continue to remain closed.
“We’re trying to adopt a sensible public health-driven approach to this, but that is none-the-less programmatic in the context,” the mayor said.