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Parks, trails and driving ranges reopen as province eases some restrictions (update)

Stephen McNeil cautions the restrictions could return if social distancing and gathering limits are ignored
USED 042020 - IMG_5734
(Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

HRM is asking for patience as staff work to remove all barricades, locks and gates from over 900 parks and 425 km of trails in the municipality.

On Friday afternoon, the province announced the easing of some public health restrictions, including the reopening of parks, trails and driving ranges.

However, while the province has indicated sports fields can now open, HRM says it isn't yet in a position to do so. The municipality plans to release more information next week.

Existing public health directives around social distancing and social gatherings remain in place, meaning people must keep two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five. Police departments will still be playing a role in enforcing those measures.

"We ask that as much as possible, you do not drive to parks and trails, but you enjoy what is available in your local community," said Dr. Robert Strang at his news conference today. "That goes for ATV users as well."

Strang said if you do choose to drive to a park or trail, if the parking lot is full when you arrive, find somewhere else to go.

"We're opening these up, but we need to be safe and use good common sense about how much we congregate together."

Provincial campgrounds, golf courses, playgrounds and beaches remain closed in Nova Scotia. 

This means if you're heading to a provincial park with a beach and a playground, you can walk through the park, but you have to stay away from the beach and playground.

"Most of us don't have a beach in our community and would have to drive a fair distance to get to one, and we don't really want people driving long distances if they don't need to," Strang explained.

"Playgrounds have many challenges for maintaining social distance for kids, plus have many high touch surfaces that can't be sanitized."

Private campgrounds are also still shut down, with the exception of recreational vehicles parked for the season or year-round. 

"No weekend or short-term campers are permitted at this time," Strang said.

The provincial government says, as of today:

  • provincial and municipal parks can reopen, but playground equipment will continue to be off limits
  • trails are allowed to open
  • people are allowed to use and visit community gardens
  • garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses can open
  • sportfishing is permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed
  • people can attend boating, yacht or sailing clubs for the purpose of preparing boats for use
  • golf driving ranges can open, including those at golf clubs, but the course must remain closed; golf clubs can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening
  • people can use their cottages. Use is restricted to one household unit at a time, travel must be directly to the cottage and back, and travelling back and forth frequently from cottage and primary residence is discouraged
  • provincial and private campgrounds remain closed, but they can perform necessary maintenance and preparations for opening. An exception is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used but must follow the same rules as cottages
  • drive-in religious services will be allowed, as long as people stay in their cars, they are parked two metres apart and there are no interactions between people in cars or between people in cars and others

Strang called these the initial steps to Nova Scotia's COVID-19 recovery plan and he said officials will be closely monitoring the results.

"Our ability to open up further outdoor activities and to open up other areas will really depend on how these first steps go," he explained. "Are they done safely and will Nova Scotians continue to follow the public health advice and directives?"

Premier Stephen McNeil ended his news conference by saying he hopes the slight easing of restrictions will offer a little good news after weeks of tragedy and sadness in Nova Scotia.

"Get out, get fresh air, do a little physical activity and hang with your family. It's the best medicine right now," McNeil said. "But remember this is not a free pass to full freedom. These are small but meaningful steps and we still have to follow Dr. Strang's protocols."

The premier urged Nova Scotians to not look for loopholes in the new protocols or try to bend the rules.



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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