Cadboro-Gyro Park remains closed along with Saanich’s other playgrounds and recreation facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Saanich playgrounds, sports courts, recreation centres won’t reopen right away

District following advice of province on safe, gradual plan for reopening

Saanich residents eager to return to outdoor recreation facilities still have a bit of a wait ahead.

Mayor Fred Haynes has heard from many residents calling for playgrounds, tennis courts and other outdoor recreation facilities to reopen as the province begins to gradually reduce restrictions. While some Saanich facilities have already resumed service with enhanced safety protocols – including the Public Works Yard which reopened for yard waste drop-off on April 25 and the Cedar Hill Golf Course which opened on May 5 – Haynes feels it’s still too early to consider reopening other recreation facilities.

In an effort to halt the spread of the virus, Saanich playgrounds were closed on March 20 after the municipality received complaints about some playground users not practising physical distancing. Three days later, all other outdoor public recreation facilities were closed.

After initial issues with residents ignoring closures at the Cadboro-Gyro Park playground and at the Lambrick Skate Park, the community has been respecting the closures and abiding by the safety guidelines, said Saanich Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) information officer Kelsie McLeod.

Haynes has been “super pleased” to see residents following the orders from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the District.

Saanich isn’t planning to reopen outdoor recreation facilities at the moment as the wrong decision as “one death would be one death too many,” Haynes said, adding that these high contact sites need to be reopened carefully and gradually.

On May 6, Premier John Horgan released B.C.’s Restart Plan which includes four phases – each including a list of activities that may be able to resume during the proposed date ranges. In Phase 2, expected to begin sometime in mid-May, residents can look forward to small gatherings, hair salons and restaurants reopening and recreation and sports resuming.

Haynes said EOC staff are monitoring advice the province and will announce reopening of recreation facilities when it’s safe to do so. The virus “is still here and we have to be careful,” he added.

Coun. Ned Taylor, chair of the District’s Parks, Trails and Recreation committee, agreed, noting that while he’s looking forward to recreational facilities beginning to reopen “in the near future,” it’s important to proceed carefully.

He added that it’s clear residents “value these amenities” and that updates on the reopening plan will be shared on the Saanich website and social media accounts.

Haynes said Saanich staff are following similar protocols regarding reopening indoor recreation centres.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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