Unless people are just passing through, Guelph’s parks have been empty for the better part of the last two months, but some of those restrictions are now being lifted, and just in time for a nice stretch of spring weather. Although people are being asked to maintain social distancing, they will now be able to do it while kicking the ball around at the park.
In a media release on Wednesday, the City of Guelph opened the door for residents to start using local parks, greenspaces and sports fields for a variety of activities including exercise, disc golf, basketball, soccer, and kite flying. People will also be able to use local waterways for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, and use picnic shelters, pavilions and benches so long as they’re keeping two metres between themselves and the next person.
“We all know that spending time outdoors is important for our physical and mental health,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “As we re-open, I want to remind everyone to act responsibly so we can continue to protect the health of our community.”
The new looser rules seems to start with immediate effect. The only two dates identified in the release are Saturday May 23 when residents will be able to access tennis and pickleball courts, and Monday May 25 when the Silvercreek State Park will once again be open. And yes, this is all being done with the knowledge and blessing of Wellingt0n-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
“I am encouraged by the cautious re-opening of City amenities,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, the Medical Officer of Health. “With warmer weather on the horizon, it’s important for people to be able to safely spend time outdoors. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will work with the City of Guelph and other partners to carefully monitor new cases in our region”
Presently, Public Health is monitoring 354 cases of COVID-19 in Guelph, Wellington County, and Dufferin County. Of those cases, there have been five new ones in the last 24 hours, 33 fatalities, and 208 that have been deemed resolved. The curve seems to be flattening, but Mercer said that any further large outbreaks will mean going back to a more quarantined posture.
“If the data shows an increase of cases, we won’t hesitate to work with the City to respond accordingly to reduce opportunities for COVID-19 to spread,” Mercer said. “Because re-opening City amenities means more chances for us to be around each other, we each must do all we can to prevent the spread of the virus.”
To that end, Mercer recommends keep that two-metre distance, washing hands frequently, wearing a mask when necessary, and not spending any time in groups of five people or more.
Despite the good news, there are still some activities you will not be able to take part in. Playgrounds, splash pads and wading pools are still closed to the public, park washrooms are still closed, and the City will not be taking bookings for large gatherings. Also, while people will be allowed to take their pets out in the designated leash-free areas, the fenced in dog park at Peter Misersky Park will remain closed for the time being.
“This is a positive first step toward getting back to our routines, but we still have a responsibility to use our outdoor facilities safely; that means maintaining physical distance and following public health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Guthrie added.
In a separate press release on Wednesday, the Grand River Conservation Authority announced that they will be opening more of their parks for limited recreational activities including the Guelph Lake Conservation area, and the trail between Victoria Road North and Guelph Lake dam, as well as the Arkell-Smith, Puslinch Tract, and Starkey Hill conservation areas in Puslinch. Those areas will be open for day visits on Saturday May 23.
The GRCA also said that they are looking to May 30 as the next date for further openings, including boat launches. GRCA added that they are looking at June 15 as the potential start date for the summer camping season so long as the Provincial governments approve all necessary health and safety requirements.