Clarifying the Rules Around Parks and Public Spaces

ByBrad Bradford

There has been a lot of confusion around whether or not the beach is open. My office has been inundated with calls and emails from people wanting to clarify the rules.  With the better weather coming I understand the desire to be outside but I am very concerned about the messages and pictures I’m getting of the beach being full this past weekend. The general advice for every Torontonian, Canadian – and frankly much of the world at the moment – is that we should be practicing physical distancing and staying home unless necessary to go outside. From what I’m seeing and hearing, that doesn’t always seem to be the case for some individuals, and that’s very concerning as we’re trying to get a handle on this pandemic.

Right now people are allowed to travel through the beach, trails, and green spaces across the city – including the boardwalk. However – we are all being asked to only use these spaces while practising physical distancing  and only if you’re walking, running or rolling through. Everyone is asked not to linger or congregate. Public spaces are not a destination right now and they’re not a place for meeting friends or family. As we should all know, we’re not meant to be seeing friends and family in person except our immediate household. We should all be staying home unless absolutely essential, such as trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, or walking the dog on a leash etc. 

All parks amenities in the city are closed including playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, and many more. See for the full list of impacted amenities. To be very clear, do not use these amenities, do not congregate in public places. 

Again, we are being asked as a community, as a city, to follow these requests. If individuals are not following the advice they’re being given then these spaces could be shut down entirely. We’re not at that point yet. There’s some merit to keeping those spaces open for people to get some fresh air and daily exercise, but that’s all. Right now there’s an option to go for a walk across the sand on the beach. It’s a stressful time and so having the opportunity to go to our public spaces is a relief for many, but we have to be sensible. This is not the time to plan a picnic. If you cannot practice physical distancing safely, if you can not move through an area without coming into close proximity of other people, make a different plan to get outside.

On Monday we had to close the parking lots around the beach because people weren’t following the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health.  Starting this week (March 30) City staff together with the Toronto Police Service have also started prioritizing patrols for hot spot parks. While education is the first line of enforcement, the fines range between $750 to a maximum of $5,000. City staff are re-installing signage, locks and caution tape at parks where these have been removed. More information is available on the City’s website.

I know we all love being down at the beach especially after enduring the long winter months. If we can follow this advice, we’ll all get through this sooner. In any case, the wait will be worth it and we’ll all enjoy the beach healthily, happily and safely.

Stay well,