Closed for public health safety, loss of Saskatchewan recreation spaces felt by families

A swing set and play structure is taped off to prevent use during the coronavirus pandemic.
A swing set and play structure is taped off to prevent use during the coronavirus pandemic. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

The only noise in the park near Gerald Heinrichs’ Regina home is the flutter of caution tape in the wind.

“It seems a bit stark. It’s a beautiful park, it’s a beautiful day and it’s just a bit odd to see nobody here, no children,” said Heinrichs, whose now-adult children grew up playing in the park.

Like other sites in the city, the play structure and swing set in the small green space just off Robinson Street has been taped off so children stay away.

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

The measures started around two months ago, when playgrounds were closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Heinrichs said while he understands the public health concern, the abrupt closure and “haunting” image of taped-off play areas has an impact in other ways.

“There’s another side to this. Kids not getting out, parents not having the use and enjoyment out of their neighbourhoods. That diminishes the welfare and well-being of families in general,” he said.

“I think a lot of people are asking, has there been enough discussion in that particular area?”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Gyms, restaurants set to open in Saskatchewan on June 8

Regina Ward 10 Coun. Jerry Flegel told Global News he’s heard from a number of residents with similar concerns.

“They want to get back engaged, they want to get out of the houses and they don’t want just go for a walk, they want to kind of get some normalcy back into it,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Medical services, recreation to resume in Saskatchewan' Medical services, recreation to resume in Saskatchewan
Medical services, recreation to resume in Saskatchewan – Apr 23, 2020

Indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities will be allowed to reopen in Phase 4 of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.

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The date for that phase is still pending. Phase 3, which will see gyms, restaurants and more personal services resume, is slated to start June 8.

On Wednesday, Flegel put forward a motion for city council to petition the Saskatchewan government on allowing some organized sports to start, within health guidelines.

READ MORE: Manitoba playgrounds, rec facilities and campgrounds reopening Monday

He said that would include maintaining six feet of separation between individuals, and even wearing masks to avoid a second wave of the pandemic.

“My motion got defeated because, simple fact, they want the province to lead the charge, which they have and they’ve done a great job,” said Flegel, adding he needed to put the topic out there for consideration.

“It wasn’t a demand, it was an ask. Residents are saying they want these things open.”

Flegel noted some of the inquiries into the options for Saskatchewan were brought on by other provinces reopening some recreation facilities.

Saskatchewan in Motion offers tips for families

Despite the limited options, the apparent increased interest in outdoor activity is a welcome sight for Saskatchewan in Motion.

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“We’re really encouraged by the amount of kids and their families outside walking and biking and taking advantage of the spaces they do that they do have right now, and we hope that continues,” said Brenden Branscombe, Saskatchewan in Motion Community Development Specialist.

READ MORE: Phase 3 of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan challenging for some fitness, dance studios

Branscombe said the organization’s main focus is on kids and families having enough freedom and space to play, which right now is a challenge for families.

Saskatchewan in Motion currently has a virtual idea jar set up on its website to provide different ways to keep active and stay busy outside. It’s also launching an online summer adventure calendar July 1.

“It’s in response to the times that we’re in right now, so it will give children and families the opportunity to click on a day of the month, and a new idea will appear,” he said, adding the calendar will run all summer.

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