TORONTO - The scene at a downtown Toronto park was much calmer on Saturday than a week earlier when thousands of people defied physical distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most people at Trinity Bellwoods Park stayed within circles that were painted on the grass this week to encourage people to keep their distance from others while enjoying the park on a sunny day.

Police and city officials had condemned last Saturday's mass gathering, which saw large groups of people congregating in the middle of the park in what police described as a party atmosphere with public intoxication.

Dozens of police and city bylaw officers were patrolling the park this weekend.

People at the park said they were relieved to see a smaller turnout.

Ben Eagan lives across the street from the park and says access to the green space is incredibly important for him and his family.

“We use it every day to walk our dog,” said Eagan, who added he avoided the park last weekend after hearing about the crowds.

“That day it was just next level, we didn't come to the park because it got so nuts.”

He says he understands that people need park space when living in a dense inner-city neighbourhood, but pointed out that there are many parks in the area that people could have gone to last weekend.

Bianca Daus was in the park while her dog was getting groomed nearby and said it felt strange to use circles painted in the grass.

However, she said it's just another reality of living during a pandemic where you can't hug friends or have to be reminded to constantly wash your hands.

She said she was pleased to see a calmer atmosphere at the park.

“It's unfortunate that sometimes people don't always respect the rules,” said Daus.

“Now, people seem to be OK staying within their circle.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.