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Coronavirus: Calgary playgrounds to open June 1, people asked to avoid some parks

Calgary looking at June 1 for reopening playgrounds
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi announces the city is planning on reopening playgrounds on June 1.

With weather warming up in Calgary, residents are spending even more time outside enjoying the spring, but according to officials, some parks are a little too busy.

Officials said on Monday that, for the most part, people did a “great job” with physical distancing over the weekend, and on the first day of the second phase of Calgary’s relaunch.

READ MORE: Some Calgary restaurants may not open for dine-in, despite provincial green light

But Calgarians are still being reminded if they arrive at a park that’s busy, or has a full parking lot, they should head elsewhere to enjoy the great outdoors.

Because of their popularity, the city is asking Calgarians to avoid the following parks for the time being:

  • Prince’s Island Park
  • Eau Claire Promenade
  • Sue Higgins Dog park
  • Nose Hill Park

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said keeping parks open and safe for users comes down to being smart and asked residents, “don’t be like Toronto.”

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‘Don’t be like Toronto’: Calgary mayor asks citizens to be responsible at city parks
‘Don’t be like Toronto’: Calgary mayor asks citizens to be responsible at city parks

Over the weekend, Torontonians flocked to the popular Trinity Bellwoods Park by the thousands, violating social distancing measures and putting themselves and others in danger.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Doug Ford encourages everyone who visited crowded Toronto park to get tested

“We have a beautiful city that is full of green spaces, and there are great opportunities to get together in your own neighbourhood,” Nenshi said.

“A lot of this is going to be self-regulating.

“People want to stay safe, they want to keep the physical distance but if it’s totally impossible to do in Eau Claire, then there are other places and heck, there’s a very long river pathway.

“You could certainly go to parts east on the Bow River where you will find fewer people.”

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Playgrounds reopening

Another thing that will start to return to normal over the next week is playgrounds, which will have the yellow caution tape and closure signs gradually taken off starting June 1.

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Though that’s the planned official day of their reopening, Nenshi advised families to still obey the tape and signs if they’re still present on their neighbourhood playground.

“We’ve gone through a long winter and many months of disuse, so they do all need to be inspected and make sure they’re safe.

“Do not use your playground until that tape has been removed and it is clear to be used,” the mayor said.

Calgary looking at June 1 for reopening playgrounds
Calgary looking at June 1 for reopening playgrounds

He stressed that while the playgrounds are opening, they’re still considered high-touch areas, and therefore the proper precautions should be taken by anyone bringing their children there.

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READ MORE: Calgary student builds website with 3D view of global COVID-19 cases, spread

That includes bringing and using wipes and hand sanitizer often.

“We do have to ensure that we’re doing these small things to keep everybody safe.”

NHL season relaunch

While some restaurants and pubs have reopened with various restrictions, Nenshi said there still wouldn’t be a large celebration if the NHL season were to relaunch.

The mayor was speaking about the update on the possible return of the 2020 season expected later Tuesday afternoon.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: NHL to abandon regular season, go to new playoff format if play resumes

He said the return of the NHL season likely wouldn’t include Calgary.

“We’re not going to be planning any major outdoor gatherings to watch the games or anything like that,” he said.

“If people are planning to go watch at their friend’s house, again, watch outside. Set up a screen outside, and watch outdoors. As long as you’re keeping two metres apart, that’s awesome.”

No big celebrations in Calgary if NHL returns
No big celebrations in Calgary if NHL returns

Nenshi also reminded anyone planning to go to a pub or bar to watch the game to respect the physical distancing measures in place and capacity restrictions.

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“I know it’s not how we want to watch hockey, but they’ll also be playing in empty arenas.

“If we love the game, we’ll figure out how to love the game with these new rules in place.”

Property tax bills on their way

Calgary home and business owners can expect their property tax bills to come in the mail over the next two weeks, but the city reminded people that there are relief options for those who are facing financial uncertainty due to the pandemic.

City manager Dave Duckworth said those who are able to pay their bill by the original June 30 deadline are encouraged to do so, and he thanked those who do.

READ MORE: Calgary’s chief financial officer ​unveils tax payment delay program amid COVID-19 pandemic

For those dealing with financial troubles, though, the city has extended the deadline to Sept. 30, and that extension is penalty- and interest-free.

Calgary extends tax deadline to Sept. 30
Calgary extends tax deadline to Sept. 30

People were also reminded that as a means of offering some relief to business owners struggling lately in Calgary, property tax rates have shifted.

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Non-residential tax payers will see a combined provincial and municipal decrease of 12 per cent and residential tax payers will have a 7.5 per cent increase to their bills.

Revenue crunch

Nenshi had a dire prediction for the city’s revenue goals and budget this year: they will be impossible to meet.

“We are looking at at least a nine-figure deficit by the end of this year,” he said. “Really, it can be anywhere from $150 million at the low end to almost $400 million at the high end. That’s a very big problem that we have to solve.”

The city said while transit services have been “bleeding money,” other municipal units are facing big losses, including city-owned recreation facilities which were forced to close.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 430 Calgary Transit employees laid off as ridership drops during pandemic

There has also been a delay in collecting fees for certain planning and building permits.

City officials said they have seen some cost savings from the closures and reductions, but not enough to cover the losses.