City reopens parks, but not playgrounds
Dog parks, play structures, sports fields remain off limits as city lifts some restrictions
Effective immediately, the city is reopening green spaces within public parks, but amenities such as play structures and benches remain off limits, as do dog parks, sports fields and basketball courts.
Since March 27, people have only been allowed to walk, jog or cycle through city parks, and risked an $880 fine for lingering or using park equipment.
Now people can once again stretch out on the 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.
"It's really good because I think a lot of individuals who live in high-rise buildings don't have the privilege of a backyard," said Nancy Blane, who was enjoying Wednesday evening at Strathcona Park.
Fellow Ottawa resident Nathan Davie agrees with that. With three kids, he welcomes a new family activity.
"We've been doing a lot of walks," he said. "Now it's nice that we can go somewhere and sit down and relax for a little bit."
Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday he wishes he could reopen dog parks, but provincial restrictions don't allow it. He said city officials are in talks with their provincial counterparts about revisiting that particular restriction, in part because dog parks present a fairly low risk of viral transmission.
Playgrounds, including play structures and swings, will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future, however. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said the equipment are "impossible to sanitize."
Heinz Burgsthaler, who walks regularly in Strathcona Park, hopes benches are something he and others can use soon.
"I walk with canes," he said. "Once in a while, I have to sit down and if you'd be allowed to use the park bench, that would be something at least."
As of Wednesday, there are 1,558 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, up 23 from Tuesday. There have now been 139 deaths from COVID-19 in Ottawa.
There are currently outbreaks at 23 long-term care facilities in the city, where most of the deaths have occurred.
with files from CBC's Natalia Goodwin