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Reconsider outdoor recreation closures, city urges province

Thunder Bay's city council unanimously called on the provincial government to reconsider the closure of facilities including soccer fields, skate parks, and golf courses.
Bill Mauro
Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro wants the province to reconsider its order closing outdoor recreation facilities. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com/FILE)

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay is asking the provincial government to reconsider its recent decision to order outdoor amenities including soccer fields and golf courses closed.

Mayor Bill Mauro argued at Monday’s city council meeting that the new regulations introduced Friday by the Ford government didn’t seem to follow scientific evidence.

“Last year, when we were coming out of spring and heading into summer, the outdoor piece was the piece that was seen to be safer,” he said. “That medical advice has not changed.”

Friday’s announcement had nearly united the province in surprise and opposition, Mauro said, adding the targeted facilities had important mental health benefits.

“Recreation has a distinct and direct correlation to mental health and overall well being,” read a memo from the mayor, who put the resolution forward. “Many medical professionals have provided feedback that these new regulations and prohibitions are not helpful in the fight against COVID-19.”

Mauro said there could be justification for some of the restrictions, but hoped the province would reconsider the sweeping closures it had announced Friday.

A regulation passed that day closed playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, golf courses, and other outdoor recreation facilities indefinitely, as the government scrambled to respond to surging case counts and hospitalizations.

The government walked back the playground restrictions the following day, but left the others in place.

The new rules also put skate parks and picnic tables out of bounds, the City said Monday.

Coun. Brian Hamilton suggested that wasn’t a proportional response to the limited risks of outdoor transmission.

“We need to learn to navigate this pandemic in a sustainable, long-term way,” he said.

A resolution passed unanimously by city council Monday directs the city to advocate on the issue.

“We recommend that the province reconsider the restrictions to outdoor amenities to allow for those which can take place safely using public health measure,” it reads in part.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, local MPPs, and federal Minister of Health and Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu.