City sending in 'park ambassadors' to inform, not to ticket
Green-shirted ambassadors will help people navigate new park rules, similar to LRT 'red-vesters'
New "park ambassadors" will soon be on patrol at some of Ottawa's busiest public green spaces to help confused residents navigate the newly loosened COVID-19 restrictions, Mayor Jim Watson announced Friday.
The green-shirted ambassadors will start appearing Monday, working in pairs to offer advice to parkgoers who have now been given greater freedoms.
The ambassadors aren't bylaw officers, Watson said during a virtual news conference, and won't be there to issue tickets to people breaking physical distancing rules.
"Their role is to educate and inform park users about how to use the parks," Watson said.
"Having the ambassadors for instance at the LRT stations was very helpful to pass along information, tips and so on," he said. "We hope the same can be transferred over to the park system."
The ambassadors will be chosen from among existing parks and recreation department employees, so there will be no additional cost to taxpayers, Watson said.
Watson also announced parking lot barriers at Mooney's Bay, Britannia Park and Petrie Island would be removed Friday, but warned the lots could be closed again if people fail to adhere to physical distancing policies.
'Backdrop of infection'
As of Wednesday, people can once again stretch out on the park grass or throw a ball, as long as they're not in groups of more than five.
The city is also encouraging people to remain two metres away from anyone who's not a member of their household. Playgrounds, benches and other park infrastructure remain off limits.
Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, reminded people Friday that the gradual relaxation of restrictions come against a "backdrop of infection in our community that has not disappeared."
If we don't keep trying to push the infection down by staying apart from others, it can rise quickly. It can cause the kind of situation we saw in New York City. That is not out of the question.- Dr. Vera Etches
"If we don't keep trying to push the infection down by staying apart from others, it can rise quickly. It can cause the kind of situation we saw in New York City. That is not out of the question," Etches warned.
"That is something that all the hard work of people in Ottawa has prevented. And we want to keep it that way."
Ottawa Public Health reported 24 new COVID-19 cases Friday, with seven new deaths.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 1,603 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in the city, with 148 deaths linked to the disease.