Councillors call on city to reopen park green space
Ottawa closed all city parks and amenities on March 27 amid pandemic
Seven Ottawa city councillors have co-signed an open letter calling on the city and province to reopen green spaces in Ottawa's parks, as city staff say they're working to "reassess" the closure.
"We are writing to ask that, in consultation with local boards of health, you reopen the green spaces in public parks as soon as possible," says the letter, co-signed by councillors Shawn Menard, Riley Brockington, Catherine McKenney, Carol Anne Meehan, Rawlson King, Jeff Leiper and Theresa Kavanagh.
"Many residents have been struggling with physical and mental health without adequate space to physically distance while getting outside. Access to nature, open spaces and room for exercise are important and necessary coping strategies that are well documented to increase well-being and physiological resilience," the letter reads.
"For families with small children, and those who have little to no green space on their properties, the closure of parks has been especially difficult."
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All City of Ottawa parks — and the amenities within them including play structures, swings, skateboard parks and benches — were closed on March 27. Only walking, running or cycling through city parks is allowed; lingering of any kind is strictly prohibited and punishable by a fine totalling $880.
City working to 'reassess' closure
The open letter only calls for green space to be reopened, not playground equipment or other amenities.
In a statement to CBC, city officials said they're now working with public health officials to "reassess" the closure of parks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The City has the authority to change its park closure provision in areas and spaces that do not have recreation amenities, and that are not part of the Provincial order," said Dan Chenier, general manager of the city's recreation, cultural and facility services department.
Mayor Jim Watson's spokesperson also told CBC the mayor "supports the city's careful review of the practices that were put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The city is reviewing restrictions on parks to see how we can balance the need for people and families to get outside, while maintaining the need for physical distancing," said the spokesperson for Watson.
Ford 'confident' parks will soon reopen
On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said as COVID-19 "trends head in the right direction," officials were feeling "confident that we're getting close to opening parks."
Since the parks were closed, some Ottawa residents have received hefty fines from bylaw officers, including a woman who was fined $880 for sitting on a park bench in Orléans and a Syrian refugee who received the same fine for letting his younger siblings play on a playground structure.
Three days after Ottawa closed its parks on March 27, the province enacted new physical distancing rules.
At the time, the province specified, nothing "precludes individuals from walking through or using portions of park and recreational areas that are not otherwise closed, and that do not contain an outdoor recreational amenity."