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City of Ottawa closes parks; no vehicle access to Greenbelt trails, dog parks

No parking
A no-parking sign. Shane Gibson/Global News

The City of Ottawa said Friday all facilities and equipment in municipal parks — including playgrounds — are now off-limits until further notice, marking the latest move by local officials to crack down on the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The closed facilities include all public sports fields, ball diamonds and basketball and tennis courts, according to the city’s website.

Residents are only allowed to walk through parkland “while respecting physical (social) distancing.”

READ MORE: Retirement home resident among 75 confirmed coronavirus cases in Ottawa, public health units says

“Safe park practices that are permitted include running, walking or jogging through the park, while keeping a two-metre distance from others – which is equal to the length of a hockey stick,” the new park regulations read.

“You can also walk your dog through the park where this is allowed, while respecting the established leashing requirements for the site.”

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Municipal off-leash dog enclosures, however, are among the “play structures and park equipment” the city has closed.

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In a teleconference with reporters on Friday, Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, asked residents to also keep their pets away from other people, as health officials can’t rule out that COVID-19 can’t be transmitted through pets’ fur.

NCC closes vehicle access to Ottawa Greenbelt trails, off-leash dog parks

Ottawa residents also won’t be able to access trails, pathways and off-leash dog parks in the Greenbelt by car as of Friday night and until further notice, the National Capital Commission (NCC) announced earlier Friday.

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All parking lots at trail heads and off-leash dog parks will be closed at 9 p.m. and local authorities will enforce the parking bans, the NCC — the federal Crown corporation that plans and manages federal lands in the National Capital Region — announced in a news release on Friday.

“We recognize that this decision will affect residents’ enjoyment of the Greenbelt, but we must make every effort to protect employees, contractors and trail users from COVID-19, and ensure compliance with public health directives from all levels of government, particularly the call to avoid all non-essential trips,” the commission said in its release.

READ MORE: Gatineau Park to close temporarily to slow the spread of COVID-19

The NCC said this temporary closure is “consistent” with its decision earlier this week to temporarily close Gatineau Park and end its winter recreation season in response to the outbreak of the virus.

The Greenbelt is a massive area of publicly-owned, protected green space in the national capital. Its 20,000 hectares include farms, forests and wetlands — most of which is owned by the NCC, according to the commission’s website.

The commission noted that vehicles won’t be allowed to park on roadways adjacent to Greenbelt trail heads either as part of the temporary closure announced Friday.

READ MORE: Ottawa LRT service reduced as OC Transpo ridership tanks with social distancing

In its news release, the NCC encouraged Ottawa residents to “enjoy the outdoors close to home” and to reach them on foot or by bike, instead of driving to an outdoor destination.

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“People who live near a trail head or a dog park and can access it locally may still do so, provided they respect public health recommendations, including physical distancing,” the commission said.

To help residents more easily access the outdoors while practicing social distancing, the NCC said it’s working to re-open its multi-use pathways in the city “as quickly as possible.”

The commission confirmed it’s not considering closing either the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway or the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway to vehicle traffic at this time but that it will “reassess options for road closures, including Sunday Bikedays, as the situation allows.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.