Toronto

East end Toronto residents push for opening up of outdoor bake oven

A group of residents in Toronto's east end is pushing the city to open its outdoor bake ovens, saying cooking outside is safe and allows for physical distancing, but the city is not warming up to the idea.

No permits for outdoor bake ovens being issued due to pandemic restrictions, city says

A view of the Fairmount Park bake oven after it received a cosmetic upgrade on the weekend. Volunteers painted it a rusty red colour and replaced most of the shingles on the roof. (Submitted by Barry Ross)

A group of residents in Toronto's east end is pushing the city to open its outdoor bake ovens, saying cooking outside is safe and allows for physical distancing, but the city is not warming up to the idea.

Five east end residents gave the permanent bake oven in Fairmount Park, at Gerrard Street East near Coxwell Avenue, a cosmetic upgrade over the weekend, hoping they will be able to use it this winter.

Volunteers painted it a rusty red colour and replaced most of the shingles on the roof.

Barry Ross, an area resident, said the oven would benefit the neighbourhood amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The oven has been closed since the pandemic hit the city in March.

"I can't see that a family couldn't come over from the neighborhood and just decide to have a fun little dinner on a Sunday afternoon," he said. 
    
"As we've gone through the summer and getting closer into the fall, we started thinking, well, maybe there will be some more leniency to permit bake ovens to start functioning again, particularly for, not for big group things, but just maybe small family picnics."

At these events, there would be respect for physical distancing and there would not be mingling of large groups, he said.

Ross said the ovens would be easier to regulate because not just anyone can fire them up. Training by the city is required to use them and keys are needed to access them. A number of local residents are now qualified to use it, he said.

The oven is a good fit with nearby natural ice rinks, he said. Ross said residents plan to continue to lobby for it to be fired up again and to have booking done through social media.

Barry Ross, a Fairmount Park resident, said allowing the oven to be used would benefit the neighbourhood amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

In a statement to CBC Toronto on Monday, the city said no permits are being issued for outdoor bake ovens following recommendations from Toronto Public Health related to food preparation and public events.

"The City continues to work closely with Toronto Public Health on plans for fall and winter outdoor recreation activities for Toronto residents. Decisions to resume service or offer new service will be made in consultation with Toronto's Medical Officer of Health," Jaclyn Carlisle, spokesperson for the city, said in the statement.

Carlisle said residents are encouraged to stay close to home as daily case counts continue to remain high in the city.

"As Toronto remains in a modified Stage 2, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health continues to stress that people should only consider leaving their homes for essential activities such as work, education and fitness," she said.

"As much as possible, residents are asked to limit contact with people not in the same household, keep at least six feet apart from people not in the same household and wear a mask when outside of their homes."

A sign on the Fairmount Park bake oven urges people not to climb on the structure or spray it with graffiti. (CBC)

With files from Natalie Nanowski

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