Outdoor recreation amenities restricted across the province
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout and area residents will be restricted when it comes to enjoying outdoor facilities, and activities, locally due to increased efforts provincially to stop the further spread of COVID-19.
In a news release on March 30, the Government of Ontario issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds.
“This new order would close all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario, including but not limited to playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, benches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, and other outdoor recreational amenities. Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren't otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario's provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed,” the news release stated.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout confirmed that all outdoor recreational and greenspaces that apply will soon receive signage notifying the public that there’s no access or use of the sites.
“Council met earlier this week to discuss the evolving public health crisis, and made a number of decisions, including:
Maintaining the closures of all Municipal facilities to the public through April 30, 2020 (with the possibility of extension, if required), with the exception of the Hidden Lake Landfill site and the Sioux Lookout Airport, which are maintaining regular hours of operation. Additionally, as of March 31st, the Provincial Government has ordered the closure of all parks, playgrounds and similar outdoor recreational facilities. These closures will remain in place until the prohibition of use is lifted by the Provincial Government,” the Municipality shared.
“We have ordered signage that will be installed at all applicable outdoor recreational/greenspaces, advising that by Order of the Province of Ontario there is to be no use/access of the site/facility/greenspace until the order is rescinded by the Province.”
On March 27, both the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) and the Northwest Catholic District School Board (TNCDSB) announced the closure of all their play structures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“In addition to our schools and offices being closed, all KPDSB play structures outside of our schools are also closed. Research has shown the COVID-19 virus can last on metal and plastic surfaces in both cold and warm temperatures for at least three (3) days. The closure of all school play structures is to keep everyone safe and limit the possible spread of the virus. Thank you for your cooperation,” the KPDSB shared with all their families and staff.
In a post on their Facebook page, TNCDSB confirmed, “Due to COVID-19, all TNCDSB outdoor play structures are closed to the public.”
Cedar Bay has closed their stable and the cozy cabin to the public, but the Municipality of Sioux Lookout said the trails on Cedar Bays’ property are still available for community access.
“The Municipally-owned property associated with Cedar Bay will not be accessible to the general public (stable, cabins), however, the bulk of the trails are on Crown land, so we have no control over their use. We expect that people are following the public health directives regarding social distancing whenever they have to go outdoors,” the Municipality said.
When it comes to enforcing provincial directives and emergency orders, Sioux Lookout OPP said public safety is the primary focus with financial consequences for individuals and businesses who choose to defy the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“In Sioux Lookout, our frontline approach at this time is to educate the public and encourage compliance for the purpose of public safety,” said Andrea DeGagne, Sioux Lookout OPP Provincial Constable.
“Voluntary compliance with the emergency measures that have been put in place under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act is always preferred, and we appreciate the public’s ongoing support of these mandates. However, it needs to be understood that, for the safety of our community, compliance with these orders is not optional. Recent updates to the Provincial Offences Act outline the financial consequences for individuals and businesses who choose to defy the EMCPA,” she explained.
The Provincial Offences Act has been updated to include three offences, with set fines per offence, to be enforced by police. Those offences and fines include:
• Fail to comply with an order - Part I: Fine of $750
• Obstructions of Person: Fine of $1,000
• Corporations: Fine of $500,000
For more information, visit www.ontario.ca or www.opp.ca.