BPJ June 2020

Park Begins To Reopen

By Jim Sanderson

By Jim Sanderson
As our province and city begin to reopen after announcements by Premier Ford and the City of Toronto in May, several non-essential businesses and activities have been allowed to resume operations, subject to rules like social distancing, self assessment, and the use of protective equipment.

Premier Ford’s announcement on May 14th came after an apparent stabilization of new Covid cases across Ontario, a situation that still could change. Among businesses and areas allowed to ramp up were golf courses, retail storefronts (subject to walk-in conditions), parks, marinas, and yacht clubs, so the announcement affected the Bluffer’s basin: its parking lots, launch ramps, trails, beaches, marina and yacht clubs.

It also caused some confusion. Even though the park was declared open, the sign at its entrance continued to show ‘Closed’. The general rule of No Parking remained in effect, but people were allowed to access the launch ramps and put boats in the water. Facilities and fixtures like washrooms, and benches were still off limits

Then on May 21st an announcement from the city declared the park open, and crews of parks personnel were hard at work removing No Parking barriers and examining the washrooms, presumably to open in the near future. After all, if people are allowed into the park they will need facilities.

New signs also appeared – ‘Do Your Part – Stay Apart’. As of this same week there was still no TTC service to the park. In a statement to The Monitor, TTC advised that “service will be reviewed on a month-to-month basis in consultation with the city and according to guidelines around the park reopening”.

At the yacht clubs the rules in both announcements allow only partial access, and each club is responding in its own way, doing things a little differently while obeying basic rules. At all clubs people are only allowed to prepare their boats for use, not to launch them, as of publication. At some clubs, members can only bring 1 visitor with them, preferably a household member, and cannot enter the clubhouse. Other clubs have opened washroom facilities but limit the members who may enter on a given day according to their dock number or other selective criteria. Masks are universally recommended, and mandatory in some circumstances, and, as in other parts of the park, rules of distancing, sanitation, and staying away if symptoms are present in your household must be followed.

The springtime lift of boats from cradles into the water by large cranes has also been delayed. Boats in all 3 of the ‘in-water’ clubs usually go in on the same weekend, so this is under discussion, and likely to happen sometime in June. Like the yacht clubs, Bluffer’s Park Marina is also back in business, subject to the new rules. Most boats there are still out of the water, though access to them is open. Both restaurants, The Dogfish, and Bluffers Park, were closed at the time of filing, but plan to reopen when they can do so safely.

On a visit to the park in mid May just before the opening I spoke to officers from Toronto Parks, Bylaw, and Police Services, the three main enforcement groups monitoring the basin. They were stationed , as they have been since the start of the lockdown, at the bottom of the Brimley hill, the entrances to the Marina, the boat ramps, the yacht clubs, and eastern beach. While their interactions with most people have been pleasant, there had been a spike in confrontations with visitors who have come down the Brimley hill in their cars expecting to park before the ban was lifted, and been turned away. “We are only here to help people stay safe and follow the rules, one of the officers told me, we just hope everybody can remember that.”

Of course he is right. Even though Bylaw and Parks officers will be present in fewer numbers, they have been standing on the front line alongside health care, fire, police, and other essential workers through all this and deserve every bit of our respect and appreciation. If you encounter one of these men or women in Bluffer’s Park, or anywhere else, be sure to accept their advice with a smile, and thank them for their efforts to keep the rest of us safe.

~ Jim Sanderson is a local resident, and the author of Toronto Island Summers, and Life in Balmy Beach.