Dear Friends & Neighbours.
I hope this note finds you safe and well. I have received numerous emails asking for clarity on where we can legally walk and play. COVID-19 is causing all levels of government to issue new information and directives on a daily basis. I realize it can be overwhelming. The situation is serious. Now is the time where we all must listen to our public health officials and follow their advice. Lives depend on it.
I also realize that this pandemic has laid bare conditions that, in my opinion, are not acceptable. The fact is that the weight of this pandemic will not be felt evenly because our community, like most other communities, has become too uneven. We have neighbours without access to clean water to wash their hands. We have neighbours who are without any place to stay, except to find shelter in the woods, or under a highway overpass. We have children who are going to bed hungry because they now don't have access to their school meal plan. I know that the closure of our urban green space and trail system will impact those of us living in the heart of the city. I know that it's hard to understand why our public golf courses are closed for walking or alternative uses especially because they allow for wide panoramic views - perfect for practising physical distancing. I share this view but for now, I am prepared to defer to the city's EOC and expertise of the public health directives. There will be many operational discussions needed to be had in the weeks and months ahead. And, I know that our sidewalks are narrow while most of our streets are wide. We have small business owners who are wondering whether they will ever recover after this is all over. They make our neighbourhoods more complete. We need to debate all of these conditions. We have to make a collective decision about how we want to rebuild and whether more of the same is acceptable. This pandemic has reaffirmed our shared destiny. And, it will take our combined efforts to take us in a different, more sustainable and healthier direction.
But right now and for now, I'm going to just try and bring a little bit of clarity to questions about access to space. Please note, this list could change in the days and weeks ahead as the situation evolves. I will update the list accordingly.
1. What is the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC)?
The City’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) directs what spaces and places are restricted throughout the city as it is tasked with directing the city’s response to the COVIC-19 pandemic. It consists of our City Manager, all Senior staff and the heads of fire, police and paramedics. The EOC determines what actions to take based on the best advice of our public health officials locally, provincially and nationally. Hamilton’s EOC was called to order on March 11th and has been at its highest level of activation since March 13th.
2. Can I walk on the municipal golf courses?
No. Chedoke and King's Forest municipal golf courses are closed to golfers and to the public. You are not allowed to walk on these courses. These spaces are not defined as "parks" and therefore, they are not available for walking or other public uses at this time. https://www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus/affected-city-services. Beddoe Dr (road) is open for local residents to access the Chedoke Radial Trail.
Yes. You can walk through a public park. You can take your dog for a walk in a public park, as long as the dog is on a leash. But, you cannot gather with 5 or more people in that park and you must practice physical distancing which is a minimum of 2 metres or 6 ft between each individual. All park amenities are closed. For example but not limited to playground structures, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer pitch, benches, exercise equipment, track, etc.)
*HAAA - The field inside the track is listed as a sports field, as such, under the Provincial order it is closed until the Province lifts the restriction.
Public Health has advised that people should stay home except for essential trips. If going outside, people are encouraged to go for walks just within their neighbourhoods and in their local parks. The key message coming out from all public health officials, including our own Medical Officer of Health, is to stay home except for essential needs or helping vulnerable individuals who need assistance with groceries etc., as we are entering a critical time in the pandemic. We know people want to get outside with the nicer weather, but the key message is to go for a walk in your own neighbourhood.
4. Can I use the playground equipment in a public park?
5. Can I use the tennis courts in a public park, even if I am with a family member?
No. All tennis courts are closed
6. Can I use a public basketball court?
7. Can I use the off-leash dog park?
8. Can I use a skateboard park?
9. Can I use outdoor exercise equipment in Victoria Park?
10. Can I use the running track?
11. Can I use the sports fields?
For 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11: The Government of Ontario issued an emergency order on March 30, 2020, under the Emergency Management & Civil Protection Act. It is an important read.
In summary: "This new order would close all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario, including but not limited to playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, benches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, and other outdoor recreational amenities. Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren't otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario's provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed." https://news.ontario.ca/…/ontario-extends-emergency-declara…
12. Are the community gardens open?
Pending. The Province declared community gardens an essential service as of April 25, 2020, with the stipulation municipalities must create guidelines for use. The gardens remain close until the City of Hamilton's Public Health Services creates the guidelines, these are expected the week of May 4, 2020.
14. Can I use the Escarpment stairs even if I use them to commute to work?
15. Can I use the Hamilton to Brantford Rail trail?
No. Recreational users may not use the trail. http://conservationhamilton.ca/covid-19-faq/
16. Is there a penalty for contravening these orders?
Yes: "The City’s Municipal Law Enforcement (MLE) division and the Hamilton Police Service continue to monitor for compliance of the provincial emergency order issued last weekend under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act prohibiting organized public events and social gatherings of more than five (5) people. The MLE will use a progressive enforcement approach if they do not obtain compliance or there is a repeated offence, and charges may be laid. Fines of up to $750 per individual may be applied, while corporations could face fines up to $500,000.
To report concerns about adherence to the provincial order:
- Concern about a local business or public gatherings of 5+ people, without physical distancing: 905-546-2489 (546-CITY)
- Business not following proper hygiene: 905-974-9848
- Inquiring if a business is essential: 1-888-444-3659
- Price-gouging reporting: 1-800-889-9768"
17. What about the Bruce Trail?
The Bruce Trail association is asking that hikers consider the trails closed until further notice. https://brucetrail.org/pages/covid-19-updates
The RBG has decided to temporarily close access to their lands and facilities.
19. Is Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail open?
Yes. The Hamilton Harbour Waterfront Trail is open from the McQueston Bridge to Pier 8. The section from the trailhead at Princess Point to the floating bridge is under reconstruction for another week.
20. Can I use the Chedoke Radial Trail?
Yes. The Chedoke Radial Trail is open from the trailhead at Hillcrest and Beulah Avenues to Scenic Drive, this includes the trail section that runs through the upper section of the Chedoke Golf Course. Residents living along Beddoe Dr may access the trail by walking up the remainder of Beddoe to the trail at the base of the escarpment.
**Note that all parking lots adjacent to public parks are CLOSED. Passive use of parks in your own neighbourhood is the recommendation from EOC. Driving to another destination for non-essential purposes is strongly discouraged.
I probably have missed something that interests you. Please don't hesitate to email me: [email protected]
Thank you all. Be safe by being apart. Love your City.
* Originally posted April 5, 2020 - updated as required.