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London closes outdoor recreation after Ontario tightens restrictions

Pedestrians walking on at trail and Springbank Park in London Ont. May 15, 2020. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

All outdoor recreation facilities in the City of London Ont. have closed as a result of further restrictions from the Ontario government to try and curb the spike on COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford extended Ontario’s state of emergency and provincewide stay-at-home order until at least May 20 and announced further restrictions to gatherings and recreation.

As of 12:01 a.m. Saturday all outdoor gatherings are restricted to those that live together, with the exception of those who live alone being allowed to join one other household exclusively.

In London, Ont., all public soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, skate parks, picnic areas, park shelters and outdoor exercise equipment are closed following Ford’s announcement. On Saturday, Ford reversed his decision to close down playgrounds.

Read more: Ontario’s new COVID-19 restrictions include increased police powers, restricting gatherings

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“We did not want to hear it but we were prepared for it,” said Caradoc Sands Golf Course general manager Denton Hackney when asked about golf courses being closed.

Hackney said although they are not happy with the decision to close golf courses at least they were able to be open for the last month through the beginning of the stay-at-home order.

Still, he says the last year has not been easy with courses being closed from March 20 to May 19 last year and now this most recent closure.

When asked if he thought golf courses needed to be closed to stop the spread of the virus, Hackney said the National Golf Course owners association has said there has been no known spread of COVID-19 on courses.

“We all follow a very safe protocol, best practice to ensure anyone who comes to any golf courses feels safe,” Hackney said.

Read more: Ontario to ‘scope down’ new police COVID-19 powers, source says, as playgrounds allowed to reopen

The City of London has also closed the courses at Thames Valley Golf Course and Fanshawe Golf Course, effective as of this morning.

Speaking of the new restrictions, London By-law has said the approach to enforcement will not change and there will not be random stops of individuals.

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“We will be focused on engagement, education, and enforcement, focused on officer discretion and the violations observed,” said Orest Katolyk, Chief Municipal Law Enforcement Officer.

“Everyone has to do their part to stop the spread of COVID and to protect the public and the wellbeing of the community. Enforcement by itself will not do that, everyone needs to play their part.”

Read more: ‘We will not be randomly stopping people’: London, Ont., police chief

Parks, green space, trails and pathways remain open for walking and biking, as well as off-leash dog parks and park benches.

When asked about how she feels about the new restrictions, Londoner Paula McVittie, who was out for a rollerblade with her family at Springbank Park, said she was okay with the rules regarding outdoor spaces.

“I think we should be understanding and abide by those rules or we are just going to get sick and more people will if we don’t do something about it.

“I believe there are not enough restrictions, we should tighten up, even more, to get rid of this virus and be free to go back to our normal lives,” McVittie said.

Londoner Veronica Warner, who lives across the street from Springbank Park, said she often sees people gathering in large groups.

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“It’s unfortunate but it was necessary,” Warner said when asked about the new restrictions.

“It’s not like we can’t go to the park and still enjoy it by walking or bike riding, so we need to focus on what we can do as opposed to what we are not allowed to do,” Warner said.

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