'Fed up:' Tory says ticketing blitz to enforce closure of parks facilities could begin today
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Monday, March 30, 2020 7:28AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 31, 2020 12:15AM EDT
Mayor John Tory says that he is “fed up” with the blatant disrespect some residents have shown towards the closure of facilities located within city parks and will ask bylaw enforcement officers to begin a ticketing blitz “as soon as possible.”
The city ordered the closure of all facilities located in its more than 1,500 parks last week in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 but Tory told CP24 over the weekend that he had heard numerous reports of people knocking down signs advising residents about the closure and, in some cases, ripping down caution tape so that they can use fitness equipment and playgrounds.
“I am very fed up with this. I think it is stupid and it is life-threatening because this is the kind of thing that spreads the virus and causes the death toll in places that we have seen like New York and Italy,” he told CP24 on Monday morning. “Do people not watch television and see what is going on in other parts of the world where people are not paying attention to this (social distancing) or they started doing it too late? “
Since March 24, the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division has received 385 complaints related to physical distancing in city parks and Tory said that workers manning the phone lines at 311 have also been inundated with complaints.
Tory’s office has told CP24 that going forward 311 staff will be making a daily log of calls it is receiving about violations of the city’s order so that bylaw enforcement officers can use the data to focus on ramping up enforcement in problem areas.
Park staff are also currently in the process of deploying portable electronic signs near busier parks and erecting barriers at parking lot locations that do not have existing gates, primarily along the waterfront.
Tory said that one particularly prevalent problem the city has encountered involves people taking down the tape on the outdoor fitness equipment in some parks and proceeding to use the equipment, something that he said is happening in “locations right across the city.”
He said that while he has asked bylaw enforcement officers to begin a ticketing blitz this week, he has also begun to consider more drastic measures to enforce the order, such as the outright closure of city parks.
City officials have previously said that residents violating the order will face a set fine of $750 but could also face additional penalties of up to $5,000.
“We didn’t do this because we were sort of trying to make families feel bad; we did this because it (park facilities) is a potential breeding ground for virus spread,” Tory said. “It is just extraordinary to me that people would ignore the signage and more than that, that they would ignore the consequences not just for them but for other people as well.”
More restrictive orders could be issued
Tory said that while the majority of Torontonians seem to be respecting physical distancing guidelines, he continues to be “exasperated” by reports about people heading to parks and other recreational areas in large numbers and “doing exactly what they have been asked not to do.”
His office said that police are working with parks staff to “conduct proactive enforcement” and will continue to support the city, as requested.
Tory, however, said that given the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases locally, the city may eventually have to consider more restrictive shelter-in-place orders, like the ones in effect in several U.S. cities.
“There are only a few more things that we can do and one is to be more restrictive on people coming out of their homes and you know actually take it from what is a strong recommendation to an order that you cannot come out of your home. That is something that is in the toolbox potentially,” he said.
Tory’s office tells CP24 that it has received multiple reports about large groups congregating and socializing in violation of the city order at Bluffers Park, Riverdale Park, High Park, Earlscourt Park, Christie Pitts Park and Trinity Bellwood Park.
They also say that they have received complaints about large groups playing sports at Humberline Park, Earlscourt Park, Canoe Landing Park, Coronation Park and Weston Lions Park, just to name a few.