The City of Toronto will be closing 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 parks amenities, as well as parking lots attached to its parks system effective immediately, it was announced on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 25.
The closures are part of the city’s ongoing efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“While the public has been advised that fresh air and exercise is good if you are not ill, and if so, you should stay home, it has been observed that individuals are using parks and their amenities to congregate,” said the City of Toronto’s announcement.
“The public has also shared its concerns about how parks amenities are supporting that congregation. The City is urging all residents, who are not performing essential or critical services, to stay home.”
Signage will be erected across Toronto’s parks to advise of the closures, including playgrounds, on the morning of Thursday, March 26.
“Where fencing or gates exists, they will be locked. Unfenced playground structures will be signed and taped off. Parks green spaces will remain accessible, but all amenities within City parks will be closed,” the announcement said.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has said repeatedly that physical distancing of at least two metres is critical in helping stop the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. de Villa is also urging condominium boards, all Toronto schools and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to close its playgrounds and parks amenities as well to limit public congregation, the announcement said.
There are more than 1,500 parks in the City of Toronto, more than 800 playgrounds, approximately 70 dog off-leash areas, more than 600 tennis courts and 14 skateparks.
City staff will be locking gates, taping off playgrounds and amenities, securing basketball nets, and affixing signage over the next several days, with 75 per cent of planned completion by March 27, the announcement said. That work will continue through the weekend.
Violation of these closure orders can result in fines of up to $5,000. Residents with concerns about park usage can call 311.
Mayor John Tory said he realizes parks are important to people and their neighbourhoods, but the dangers of people using them as gathering places is too great at this time.
“They are some of the best parts of our city, but playgrounds and other park amenities are gathering places and the more that people gather, the more COVID-19 will spread in our community, putting lives at risk,” he said in the announcement.
“As much as it will cause further discomfort and disruption, the steps we are taking today are based – as we have based all decisions around protecting the public – on the strong recommendation of our Medical Officer of Health.”
For more information on how the City of Toronto is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, please visit toronto.ca/covid-19