OTTAWA -- Ottawa is reopening green spaces in city parks for residents to get some fresh air during the COVID-19 pandemic, but sports fields and playground equipment remain off-limits.

Five weeks after the City of Ottawa closed all parks, sports fields, playground equipment and other amenities, the city is relaxing the restrictions for using some green spaces.

Mayor Jim Watson announced that “effective immediately, Ottawa residents will be able to enjoy fresh air and various outdoor activities in green spaces at all city parks.”

Dog parks will remain closed to users across the City of Ottawa.

The Mayor says all park users must still comply with the Ontario Government’s emergency orders, including the prohibition on organized public events, gatherings of more than five people, and using certain outdoor recreational amenities.

“Go and enjoy the parks, the green and open space. Stay off all of the structures, that’s really the bottom line,” the Mayor said.

“We want you to go out and have fun, run around the green spaces, the open areas, but please don’t go into the children’s playground areas or sports fields.”

The city provided examples of permitted activities in groups of up to five people or members from the same household:

  • Playing catch, kicking a soccer ball and throwing a football
  • Flying a kite
  • Sitting on a blanket, grass or lawn chair
  • Exercising and stretching on a yoga mat, but not in a class
  • Letting young children run and burn off some energy.

The City of Ottawa says all play structures, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, BMX and skate/board parks remain closed. Benches, picnic tables and shelters remain closed.

The city closed all parks at the end of March, then the Ontario Government announced all play structures and amenities in parks must be closed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The City of Ottawa worked with Ottawa Public Health to develop the new regulations for parks.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches was asked if she’s concerned extended families may meet up in parks, and potentially spread COVID-19.

“I always have to look at what people have done so far, and what people have done so far is protect each other by carrying out physical distancing, staying two metres apart, staying home except for essential reasons,” said Dr. Etches.

“I think people have been motivated by protecting others, by caring for others, and I expect that will continue.”

Dog parks remain closed

The City of Ottawa says off-leash dog parks across the city remain closed.

Mayor Watson told reporters that the Ontario Government’s Emergency Management and Protection Act requires the closure of off-leash dog parks during the pandemic.

“I wish we could, because I know the dog parks are really popular,” Watson said Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re working with the province to see if we can’t loosen up some of these restrictions. Dogs need exercise as well as kids, and it would be great like those dog parks are open.”