Hamilton

Playground structures are closed, but families and kids are using them anyway

The city's 297 playground structures are closed, but it's hard to enforce, and families with kids are taking advantage.

'In a way, we're causing the second wave,' says one parent at Gage Park

A group of kids played together at the Gage Park playground on Thursday evening despite the structure being closed due to COVID-19. Parents say kids using the playground is normal despite the pandemic-era restrictions. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Sidra and Abdullah Alssaghel ran around the playground at Gage Park with about a dozen other kids on Thursday night.

The seven-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother didn't see caution tape or bylaw officers. They knew the playground equipment was technically closed due to COVID-19 restrictions though, and they could even explain why.

"People touch all of the swings and we get germs, and what if they have coronavirus and we touch it and we get coronavirus too?" Sidra told CBC News.

"There's a blue sign that says it's closed."

The city closed its some 297 play structures in public parks in March as part of a sweeping shutdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. City workers put up signs, and in some cases, put yellow caution tape around the structures.

The structures are still closed, and while the signs remain, the city says, the yellow tape has been pulled down or blown away. And in the heat of summer, it's hard to get people to heed the closure. 

The city has 297 play structures. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Bylaw officers know there are hot spots, said Paul Johnson, director of the city's emergency operations centre. So, he imagines they know about Gage Park. But they can only be so many places at once.

"To [patrol parks] means staff won't do something else for a couple of days," he said. "It is a real staff resourcing issue."

Keeping caution tape around the structures just isn't practical, Johnson said. The signs are still there, he said, and "I can't imagine people don't see them."

The closures are part of the province's emergency order, he said. It's not the city's decision, and at least until stage three of the reopening plan, the equipment remains closed.

"We're really hoping to get some clarity from the province around where this sits," he said, and he hopes that comes "very soon."

Earlier in the pandemic, there was yellow caution tape around playground structures, but in most cases, it's blown away. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Parents at Gage Park on Thursday said it's hard to lure kids away from what looks like perfectly good playground structures, and harder still to prevent them from playing together. 

"Mine will come up and see other kids and say, 'Why are they not reading the sign? Why do I have to follow the rules and they do not?'" said Heater Mercer. 

Nearby, the kids shouted and tumbled, and ran up and down the playground equipment, touching the same areas and running back to their parents. 

'We're causing the second wave'

Ali Araojo, another parent with a child using the playground structure, said it's up to parents to teach their kids to follow the COVID-19 protocols. As for why she brought her own kids, she felt conflicted. Her kids want to play, but "in a way, we're causing the second wave."

"The government let the splash pad open," she said. "The kids are stuck at home. We live around the area so we let them do that."

"The splash pad is made of metal and the sign says, 'Stay six feet apart.' Kids can't do that."

Araojo and other parents say they never see bylaw officers around. "This park is always packed and I think that they know," she said, "but they're just turning a blind eye."

Active cases declining in Hamilton

There are 27 active COVID-19 cases in Hamilton as of Friday morning, according to public health. The city says there have been a total of 861 known cases of COVID-19 in Hamilton, which is up three from Thursday. Of this number, 790 cases have been resolved.

The number of Hamilton deaths from COVID-19 stands at 44.

Brant

Two people in Brant/Brantford has COVID-19, up one from Thursday. Both infected people are not in hospital.

There have been 125 total COVID-19 cases. Of those, 119 people have recovered and four have died.

Haldimand-Norfolk

There are 16 active cases of COVID-19 in Haldimand-Norfolk, down one from Thursday.

The total of 444 lab-confirmed cases hasn't changed in a week. Of those, 32 have died and 396 have recovered.

Halton

There are 43 active cases in the Halton region, down five from Thursday. The number of confirmed cases has increased by four since Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 870.

The virus has killed 25 people and 802 have recovered. 

In Burlington,10 people are known to have the virus right now, which is down one since Thursday. The city has seen 177 cases, of which 169 have recovered and seven have died.

Niagara

The number of people in Niagara currently known to have COVID-19 is at 25. One more person has recovered, for a total of 683, and one more has died, bringing the total number of deaths to 62. All told, the area has seen 770 confirmed cases.

There are outbreaks at Tabor Manor and Garden City Manor in St. Catharines.

About the Author

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

With files from Samantha Craggs

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