By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The City of Toronto wants residents to combat the unprecedented COVID-19 winter blues with WelcomeTO, its winter parks plan for the season.
While the pandemic’s second wave during the fall and coming winter has forced residents indoors, Toronto Public Health encourages people to stay active with members of their households while maintaining physical distance in public settings.
Part of that includes adjustments to the rules for many of the city’s parks and amenities.
“So many of us are feeling the mental and physical health impacts of having to adjust our daily routines and miss our favourite activities,” Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford said.
“By keeping more parks amenities open, clearing an extra 60 kilometres of paved recreation trails, adding new programs like Walk Fit, and more than doubling the number of washrooms open in parks, we’re adjusting the way we deliver services so that we can make the most of the already tough winter months.”
By the numbers, Toronto’s parks and amenities include 54 artificial ice rinks, five golf courses, 23 toboggan hills, eight snow loops, six disc-golf locations, 45 sessions of Walk Fit, 100 parks, 30 natural ice rinks, 57 tennis courts, 70 outdoor table tennis tables, 60 chess tables, and 68 off-leash dog areas.
All will be available for the public to use throughout the winter, with COVID-19 public health restrictions in place.
The city has also doubled the number of washrooms in public parks from 64 to 143.
As part of provincial and municipal COVID-19 restrictions, residents skating at city ice rinks must maintain a physical distance of at least six feet and wear face masks on and off the ice. The capacity is 25 skaters per ice pad.
Leisure skates will run in sessions of 45 minutes, and are only permitted during supervised hours. Indoor washrooms are available, but change rooms remain closed so skaters should arrive ready to skate.
Reservations are required to book the skating sessions, and there are a limited number of spots available. Residents can register online at efun.toronto.ca to book skating times.
Those who have never registered at the city before will require a “Family Number” for each household and a “Client Number” for each member of the household. To get those numbers, residents can complete a “Family Account Form” at https://bit.ly/3n1tb5e
While East Toronto and the Beaches is home to dozens of city parks and amenities, Bradford also reminds residents to check out some local, community-led winter activities.
“From Winter Stations to the natural rinks set up by groups of neighbours like the ones at Love Crescent and Fairmount Park, this community has lots of experience finding ways to make winter special,” he said. “While this winter will look and feel different I know from all the activity happening out there that we’ll keep finding ways to stay connected and give back.”
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.