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Metro Vancouver cities close outdoor sports areas as youth defy coronavirus measures

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With people still gathering in large groups despite the closures of civic facilities, schools and playgrounds across Metro Vancouver due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, municipalities are now turning their attention to outdoor sports areas.

The Vancouver Park Board has closed all volleyball, basketball and tennis courts within beaches and parks, along with skateboard parks and sports fields.

On Sunday, parking lots were also closed at parks and beaches across the city, including in Stanley Park. The closures were expected to be fully implemented by Monday morning.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. municipalities closing community centres and other civic facilities

“The park board is taking this measure as a result of insufficient public compliance with social distancing protocol at many parks and beaches,” the board said in a statement, while adding those parks and beaches remain open.

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The board said its crews were working throughout the day Sunday to install signage at outdoor facilities to notify people of the closures and social distancing protocols.

Basketball hoops and tennis nets have been dismantled by staff at several beaches and parks.

Crews even removed the iconic logs off Vancouver’s beaches to discourage people from sitting close to others.

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Port Coquitlam announced Sunday that it is closing all sports fields, sports courts and skateboard parks, effective immediately.

Mayor Brad West says the decision was made after city staff observed “overcrowding” at local outdoor courts, violating provincial orders meant to promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m now asking all Port Coquitlam residents to take the advice being provided by health authorities seriously, to keep themselves and others safe,” the mayor said in a statement and on Twitter.

“This isn’t optional.”

Coquitlam has also closed its outdoor sports areas, along with public washrooms, the city announced Sunday. Port Moody soon followed suit.

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New Westminster went even further, moving to close all dog parks and artificial turf fields.

Outside the Lower Mainland, Victoria closed its own outdoor recreation facilities on Sunday.

The moves are the latest efforts by Lower Mainland municipalities to promote directives from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to limit gatherings to 50 people and stay at least two metres apart.

Cities across B.C. have already shuttered community and recreation centres, libraries, pools, golf courses and playgrounds. Many have also ordered restaurants and bars to either shut down or move to take-out or delivery only.

Full details on what’s closed around the Lower Mainland can be found here.

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Public parks and trails remain open, with people still encouraged to go outside and get fresh air — so long as they’re following the same social distancing guidelines.

“We know our parks and open spaces provide an important relief for people especially at this stressful time but we must socially distance ourselves and not gather in large groups – and that goes for our kids as well,” West said Sunday.

READ MORE: Okanagan municipalities close facilities to slow spread of coronavirus

“As a parent of a young child, I know it’s tough, but the better job we do of this now, the faster and easier we will all get through this.”

On Saturday, the District of North Vancouver closed down both the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge and Quarry Rock after staff observed people gathering in large groups.

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The district clarified that both areas had spots within its trails where social distancing was virtually impossible to maintain.

Signage has been posted along Vancouver’s Seawall and other paths advising people to keep their distance as much as possible.

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