After receiving some criticism on social media for lagging behind other municipalities, the town’s parks and recreation department had removed barriers to playground equipment in local parks.
The province made an announcement late in the day, advising of a number of additional measures coming into effect including the closure of all outdoor amenities, including playgrounds. In response, staff worked late into the evening to immediately secure play structures with caution fencing.
On Saturday, after strong criticism for health professionals and Ontario Science Table members, Premier Doug Ford tweeted advising that provincial regulations would be amended to allow playgrounds to reopen.
“This Tweet gained traction and understandably created excitement for young children and families within Niagara-on-the-Lake,” a town news release says.
Town staff, says Lord Mayor Betty Disero, waited for the official notification of an amendment to the regulation, and once the Ontario website was updated to reflect the change Monday morning, staff reopened municipal playgrounds.
According to provincial regulations, other outdoor amenities will remain closed, including outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields such as golf courses, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, BMX parks, skate parks, portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment, picnic sites and picnic tables.
Parks or recreational areas are open to walk through and playgrounds, play structures, and equipment can be used by children if both the children and their parents can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others, other than a person who is a member of the same household.
Off-leash dog parks and benches in parks or recreational areas can be used if all protocols followed.
“This past weekend demonstrated just how high tensions are,” says Disero, adding bylaw officers were being given a hard time by people who were not following provincial regulations.
“Let’s not allow the stress of this pandemic change who we are as a community,” she says. “No matter what stage we are at, no matter what the regulations say or don’t say, we are still in this together even though we are apart. Please, continue to follow all rules and guidelines by keeping your distance, wearing a mask, and washing your hands. Take care of yourselves and protect one another and Niagara-on-the-Lake will get through this as one community, united.”
Town staff will continue to patrol parks to educate the public on requirements outlined in provincial regulations and public health guidelines, to support bylaw officers.
“Information from the province is changing rapidly, so we understand that members of the public may, at times, be feeling confused or frustrated,” says CAO Marnie Cluckie.
“The town will continue to work diligently to implement and adhere to provincial regulations and requirements as they become available, and to communicate these to the public.”