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Coronavirus: Quebec provincial parks partially reopen as province permits some sports to resume

Back on the greens: Golfing, tennis among outdoor sports allowed to resume in Quebec
Individual outdoor sports were given the green light to resume May 20 amid the coronavirus pandemic. As Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports, for some outdoor enthusiasts the moment couldn't come soon enough.

As rules aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus are eased, some provincial parks in Quebec are partially reopening and a limited number of sports are allowed to resume under physical-distancing measures.

The Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SEPAQ), which oversees 24 parks in the province, says that limited services will be available. Virtual tickets are mandatory in order to access the green spaces.

As of Wednesday, some biking and hiking trails are accessible. Visitors can also access some lakes for day fishing.

READ MORE: Quebec to permit some non-contact sports as of May 20

The organization says all other activities are off limits for now but that it plans to expand its offering.

As part of the limited reopening, service buildings and washrooms are closed at Quebec’s provincial parks.

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Park-goers must bring their own equipment — such as helmets and bikes — since rentals are not available. Visitors are also asked to bring a mask, hand sanitizer and wipes.

SEPAQ is asking Quebecers to stay home if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The organization also asks that people plan their trip to parks in advance and arrive early to avoid crowds.

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Aside from reopening provincial parks, Quebec is allowing some recreational sports to resume as of Wednesday. This includes tennis, golf, hiking, track and field, cycling, rock climbing, canoeing and horseback riding.

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At the Windmill Heights Golf Club in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, golfers were anxious to hit the greens.

“It’s a great feeling,” said one enthusiast. “I haven’t hit a ball in six months. It’s nice to get it in the middle of the fairway.”

But players at Windmill Heights will have to get used to a new way of doing things.

“It’s very important to follow what the government is saying right now,” said Mike Paquin, general manager of the club.

Players are briefed in the parking lot on the numerous safety measures. Golfers can’t arrive more than 30 minutes before their tee time and there’s no access to the clubhouse.

Carts are limited to one person or can be shared with family members.

READ MORE: Montreal-area stores prepare to open their doors amid coronavirus pandemic

Things will look different on the greens, too.

Black disks will stop the balls from completely sinking in the hole, as players aren’t allowed to touch the flag stick.

“People want to see that ball disappear, but it will now just stay at the top,” Paquin explained.

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While some of the changes might be difficult to get used to, like foregoing a handshake at the end of a game well played, most are just thankful to be back on the fairway.

“I’m just happy to play the game,” said Lou Myatt. “The only thing that will get me off the course is lightning.”

Last week, junior education minister Isabelle Charest said the first activities to be permitted are those that can be practised outdoors, either individually or in pairs, with two metres of physical distancing maintained.

Quebec is not yet allowing team sports, such as hockey or soccer, to resume.

 

With files from Global’s Brayden Jagger Haines and the Canadian Press