Beaches-East York Councillor calls on province for clear guidance on restarting outdoor sports and recreation activities

Players take part in The Robbie International Soccer Tournament at Birchmount Stadium on July 1, 2019. Beach Metro News file photo.

Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford is calling on the Province of Ontario to come up with a plan that will give clear guidance on when and how outdoor community sports and recreation activities can restart this summer.

“As you know, I’ve been working with many of our local sports groups to get a sensible reopening plan in place for sports and rec in the east end and across the city,” said Bradford in an email to Toronto media organizations and sports clubs on April 22.

“While I’ve been working on getting more and clearer communications from the City’s Parks department, it’s become clearer and clearer that the Province needs to step up with a plan… As with most of the pandemic, it’s going to take a lot of work to get even the most sensible, practical measures in place.”

Bradford attached a letter that he had sent to Premier Doug Ford on April 22 outlining his and the concerns of many others regarding the “lack of information and consultation on plans to safely restart” a number of outdoor activities.

“We are aware that the Province’s reopening framework from last year offers guidance on how outdoor sports and recreational activities can operate safely. There have been many lessons learned from last summer and our local leaders have been sharing their feedback and input on how to manage the 2021 summer season but they have been met with silence from the Province,” the letter read.

“We would like the opportunity to provide our input on how we can plan to get back outside, when it’s safe, and enjoy physical activities like baseball, slo-pitch, softball, lacrosse, basketball, cycling, volleyball and soccer. We need clarity urgently given the length of time in planning and organizing these type of activities.”

The letter added: “After all of the sacrifices we’ve been making, knowing that there is a safe, practical and sensible plan to resume sports and recreations is critical for the mental and physical health of our communities.”

Bradford’s sentiments were echoed in a press release sent to by the Cosburn Park Lawn Bowling Club on April 21 that asked the Ontario government to reconsider restrictions on outdoor activities “especially for inherently safe sports” such as lawn bowling.

We know that lawn bowling can be played safely,” said Sandy Johnson, president of the Cosburn Park Lawn Bowling Blub. “It’s easy to maintain physical distance on the greens. There’s no contact between players, and we don’t share equipment.”

In 2020, Cosburn Park implemented a strict safety protocol that included extra space between games and between players, an online booking system for contact tracing, and regular surface cleaning. The club had no reported cases of COVID-19 among its members, said its press release.

Johnson said lumping all outdoor activities together stops people from getting valuable physical exercise.

“The Ontario government should assess risk for each sport on its own merits” she added. “Maybe some contact sports need special rules, but lawn bowling is like golf or singles tennis; we don’t need to get close to other players. Safety is built into our game.”

Ontario Soccer is also seeking clarity from the province on how to restart and when.

In a letter to Premier Ford on April 21, it said: “We are writing you today to request that you take another prudent step forward by reversing the decision to stop all outdoor organized and controlled sports, as they provide an essential avenue for our youth and adult participants to stay healthy and fit, with a demonstrated minimal risk of community transmission.”

In February of this year, the City of Toronto announced that it had cancelled all permits for in-person major events through to July 1. This would mainly impact events such as Canada Day picnics, parades and fireworks, but also meant the cancellation of this year’s Toronto Marathon, Ride for Heart, and the Trans March, Dyke March and Pride Parade. It also meant the cancellation of sports tournaments using City facilities through to Canada Day.

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