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Outdoor recreation set to reopen in Hamilton on Saturday

Danica Ferris / Global News

Ontarians get the green light on Saturday to resume outdoor activities, with conditions, amid the province’s ongoing COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford announced that a number of recreational amenities can reopen as of 12:01 a.m. on May 22 with some limitations, including a ban on organized outdoor sports and recreational classes.

“The great news is that people will be able to launch their boats, they’re going to be out golfing, they’re going to be able to play sports. They’re going to be able to gather with five people outside their family. So this is really good news,” Ford said.

Read more: COVID-19: Here’s what outdoor amenities can reopen in Ontario on Saturday

The relaxation of orders included a change in outdoor social gatherings and organized public events that can expand to five people, including members of different households.

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Paul Johnson, head of Hamilton’s emergency operations centre, called the decision an important one for the gradual reopening of many activities in the community.

“Some of these sporting events can happen in terms of basketball courts, tennis courts, getting out golfing, recreational boating, even within your own family on starting this weekend,” Johnson said.

Locks and tape on tennis and basketball courts, as well as the escarpment stairs, will be removed by 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, according to Johnson.

Also available are driving ranges and access to recreational boating.

Small outdoor gatherings in backyards are acceptable with adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols like distancing, masks, and handwashing.

However, such gatherings are not permitted to move indoors.

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“It’s still zero tolerance because it is very unsafe and the risk is much higher when you move things to an indoor capacity,” Johnson said.

The EOC director believes the province decided to take a three-phase approach encompassing all health units, as opposed to a regional colour coding plan, to discourage people from travelling to get things they can’t in their own neighbourhood.

Read more: What you can do and when under Ontario’s new 3-phase COVID-19 reopening plan

“The bottom line is, that it won’t encourage people from Hamilton to travel to see Kingston or Ottawa because something’s open there and vice versa if it was to happen the other way,” Johnson said.

The Ford government’s three-stage COVID-19 reopening is not set to start until 60 per cent of eligible Ontarians have been vaccinated. That phase will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10, patios of four, and the opening of non-essential retail up to 15 per cent capacity.

Johnson suggests phase three, which will allow for limited indoor sports and attractions when 80 per cent of residents are vaccinated, could be as far away as the fall with much of the summer likely to pass before the city leaves the final phase.

“Really, this is all tied to how the vaccines are rolling out,” Johnson said.

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“While the vaccine progress is positive across the province, including here in the city of Hamilton, the reality is we still have a ways to go to get to that type of coverage from a vaccine perspective.”

What’s open on Saturday in pre-Stage 1 of the Ford government’s three-phase opening:

  • golf courses and driving ranges (including King’s Forest Golf Course as well as Beddoe and Martin at the Chedoke course)
  • Escarpment stairs for recreational use
  • soccer and other sports fields (no organized outdoor sports)
  • tennis and basketball courts
  • skate parks
  • marinas and boat launches (including Bayfront Park)
  • horse-riding facilities
  • bike trails
  • shooting and archery ranges
  • batting cages

Outdoor social gatherings and some organized public events will expand to five people, including members of different households.

Indoor gatherings, like recreational classes, carpooling, access to locker rooms, and sharing accommodations, will not be permitted.

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The city will open approximately 50 spray pads across the city on Saturday with 19 additional locations expected to come online by the end of the day, barring any mechanical issues.

Pools will remain closed until mid-June.

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