Mount Pleasant Cemetery will reopen its gates ahead of Mother’s Day but it plans to close them on Sunday in order to prevent large crowds from paying their respects on what is usually its busiest visitation day.

A spokesperson for the large cemetery, which spans from Bayview Avenue to Yonge Street, said that a decision has been made to reopen the grounds from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but close them for Mother’s Day itself on Sunday.

The cemetery will, however, reopen on Monday and remain open seven days a week going forward, albeit with the same limited hours.

“The decision to remain closed on Mother’s Day was a difficult one and one that the Bereavement Authority of Ontario is recommending all cemeteries in Ontario follow,” spokesperson Rick Cowan said. “We know how important Mother’s Day is to the families we serve. It is also the busiest visitation day for our cemeteries, drawing large crowds. As an essential service it is paramount that we keep funeral and cemetery staff safe and healthy to ensure our facilities can remain operational during this pandemic.”

The group that operates Mount Pleasant Cemetery previously opted to lock the gates to the grounds in early April amid concerns over people not following physical distancing guidelines.

It has been closed ever since but earlier this week Mayor John Tory did tell CP24 that he planned to reach out and ask whether they could reopen for Mother’s Day.

“Maybe they (the operators) overreacted a little bit but I think it may be time just to reconsider,” he said at the time.

‘It is like the Central Park for midtown Toronto’

Mount Pleasant Cemetery is the final resting place for tens of thousands of people but it is also is also a popular recreational spot for walkers, runners and cyclist.

Speaking with CP24 on Thursday, Toronto St. Paul’s councillor Josh Matlow said reopening the cemetery will hopefully give residents another place to walk where they don’t have to “hop into a live lane of traffic” to avoid busy sidewalks.

“It is like the central park for midtown Toronto. It is a sacred place for those who are buried there but it is also a place of recreation and a place of peace for those of us who live in the neighbourhoods,” he said.

Matlow said that he is hopeful that the reopening of Mount Pleasant Cemetery on evenings serves as a “starting point” of sorts and that the hours are eventually expanded.

He said that he is in regular contact with management and is encouraging them to do everything they can to safely “ensure that we have the space again to walk in our neighbourhoods.”

“They (management) are trying to be responsible but at the same time while they have a responsibility to protect their staff and make sure that the cemetery isn’t a place where this virus is transmitted as a city and as a province we are encouraging people to exercise to support their own mental and physical health,” he said.