On-again-off-again outdoor recreation back again

You can get out your golf clubs, basketball gear and tennis rackets this long weekend, as Toronto is once again allowing activities at its courses, courts, parks and sports fields.

Following an Ontario announcement yesterday, the city is reopening its outdoor recreational amenities — albeit with public health restrictions in place — as of May 22.

The provincial go-ahead comes after intense pressure from the city and others on Premier Doug Ford for the extent of the lockdown he announced in April. Outdoor recreational activities should not be shut down as they were not major spreaders of COVID-19, critics said.

“I want to thank Premier Ford and the cabinet for opening outdoor recreation amenities starting this weekend,” Toronto mayor John Tory said in a statement yesterday. “The announcement today from the Ontario government recognizes the progress we have all made in stopping the spread of COVID-19 by following the public health measures.”

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The fight against COVID-19 continues with the city’s immunization efforts “but today we have the kind of clear roadmap forward we were seeking, so we could get on with safely and cautiously reopening,” Tory said.

Facilities expected to reopen tomorrow include:

  • golf courses
  • basketball courts
  • tennis courts
  • soccer fields
  • baseball diamonds
  • lawn bowling greens
  • BMX and skate parks
  • picnic tables and shelters
  • outdoor fitness equipment
  • dry pads at outdoor artificial ice rinks

History of openings and closings

Most of these activity areas were first shut down by the city on March 25, 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — along with playgrounds, dog parks and community gardens.

However, on July 6 the province’s reopening plan let Toronto reopen its nearly 700 sport fields with restrictions on the numbers of participants allowed on the field.

By the middle of summer most amenities in parks, including playgrounds and outdoor exercise equipment, were reopened for physically distanced activities.

During the new lockdown in late-November — during the pandemic’s second wave — parks and playgrounds were kept open, while indoor recreational facilities were closed. Sports fields and courts, as well other outdoor amenities, were subject to limits of 10 people, except for ice rinks which had capacity limits of 25 skaters.

On April 1 this year the city opened its five golf courses for a slightly early golfing season.

This came to an end later that month though, when the province issued its third-wave lockdown orders. Toronto followed on April 19, shutting down its outdoor facilities, like golf courses, basketball and tennis courts, sports fields and skate parks.

Team sports out

The latest reopening comes with restrictions, such as physical distancing.

Team sports cannot be played or practised and recreational classes are not permitted.

Pavilions, clubhouses, change areas and lockers will remain unavailable, under provincial orders, according to yesterday’s city statement.