Sun-starved folks flock to Ottawa-Gatineau parks and beaches

With this weekend's burst of hot, sunny weather came crowds of people eager to escape from the confines of self-isolation — and in Gatineau at least, increased enforcement.

We asked how you're enjoying outdoors right now

People enjoy the warm weather at Mooney's Bay Park in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 23, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

With this weekend's burst of hot, sunny weather came crowds of people eager to escape from the confines of self-isolation to enjoy the outdoors.

While the Ottawa-Gatineau region didn't see a controversy like that at Toronto's Trinity-Bellwoods Park, residents did flock to popular spots including Mooney's Bay Beach, Gatineau Park and the Cedars Park Beach in Aylmer.

It was the first weekend since the Quebec government lifted restrictions blocking travel into the Outaouais region, meaning many from Ontario crossed over for the first time since the checkpoints went up in early April.

The province also has eased restrictions on social gatherings: as of Friday, up to 10 people from three households are allowed to gather outdoors on private property, as long as they maintain a two-metre distance.

Gatineau police, meanwhile, said they would be stepping up enforcement of physical distancing rules on the weekend.

CBC-Radio Canada spoke to some people in Gatineau who were outside taking advantage of their newfound semi-freedom about how they're enjoying the outdoors in the midst of a pandemic.

Amanda Beck (left), Jessica Sanchez (middle) and Taza Adedayo (right). (Radio-Canada)

Jessica Sanchez

I'm from Barrhaven in Ottawa. I came to visit Quebec as soon as the border was open. I wanted to see my friends again. I am looking forward to summer, hanging out with friends and drinking (laughs).

Amanda Beck

We are really familiar with the social distancing rules and were making sure that we weren't too close to each other before. Now that the rules are being lifted and there's a little bit more leeway, we're still respecting the rules — we're not going to share the same food and will stay as far away as we can.

Jeff Martin

I did my part and waited until Gatineau Park opened to people from outside the local area. When it did open, I was here the first day. I'm really happy, and so are a lot of my friends on the Ontario side.

I am most excited about the park being closed to vehicles. You have the whole road to yourself, you can maintain your distance from others and don't have to worry about traffic.

I think we're all fed up with this pandemic and we want to go back to our normal lives as soon as possible.

Delphine Lacoste

We're being careful making sure to not be too close to each other. It's new and we're getting used to it. I think it's good that we can still be outside and see each other and it's good that the police are out here to check on that.

Celeste Thorne

Overall, people are respecting the rules, although there are some bigger groups of people together.

The presence of the police is a good thing, otherwise there might be some people who forget the rules and get together with too many people with not enough distance between them.

Jean François Gregoire, Gatineau police

After seeing alcohol consumption here yesterday and people not respecting the two-metre distancing rules, we decided today to be more present throughout the city in public places.

We have more officers here on the beach to make sure that people are respecting the two-metre rule.

We want to educate people on the distancing rules and we also want to enforce municipal bylaws with regard to alcohol consumption on the beach.

We want to educate first and give warnings. If necessary, we will give out tickets. 

Here in public spaces there is no limit in a group, as long as you respect the two-metre distance. It is a misbelief that the maximum 10-person rule applies here. The 10-person rule applies only on private property.

Residents of Gatineau took to the outdoors this weekend, though police were present in many locations to enforce physical distancing measures. The CBC’s Natalia Goodwin reports. 1:02

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