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Island municipalities closing recreation facilities, city halls

The City of Victoria shuttered Crystal Pool and Royal Athletic Park on Monday and announced the closure of city hall as municipalities across Vancouver Island scrambled to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Photo - Crystal Pool
Crystal Pool in Victoria is closed until further notice as a precautionary measure.

The City of Victoria shuttered Crystal Pool and Royal Athletic Park on Monday and announced the closure of city hall as municipalities across Vancouver Island scrambled to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Lisa Helps announced the extraordinary measures after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed three more deaths and 30 new cases in B.C., including seven on Vancouver Island.

The pool and athletic park shut down at 5 p.m. until further notice. Refunds will be offered to anyone affected.

As well, Helps urged non-profit agencies to shut down community centres and seniors centres in city-owned buildings.

People will need an appointment to get access to city hall beginning today and will only be able to watch Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting online.

“I didn’t imagine as mayor that I’d ever be closing the pool, the community centres,” Helps said.

“But these are extraordinary measures that are warranted by the extraordinary times.”

Other municipalities and public agencies took similar steps after the provincial health officer recommended canceling all gatherings of more than 50 people in an effort to curb the outbreak.

On Monday evening, Saanich announced that programs and drop-in activies at Saanich Commonwealth Place, Pearkes, Gordon Head and Cedar Hill recreation centres were cancelled until further notice.

Mayor Fred Haynes said the municipality was taking “proactive measures” to protect residents and staff.

“While we know that recreation is a key part of our community, it's important that we all do our part to mitigate risk and exposure to COVID-19,” he said.

“I encourage you to continue to take advantage of the warmer weather and safely explore Saanich's parks and natural areas. Let's work together to stay active and healthy amidst this changing situation."

Some services are still available. Day camps will run until Friday, but the municipality encouraged caregivers to make other arrangements and said the camps could be cancelled before.

Credits will automatically be issued to anyone who has registered for activities affected by the closures.

Officials said all book loans will be extended for six weeks and drop boxes will be closed.

In Nanaimo, the city closed all recreations facilities to the public at 6 p.m. Monday until further notice. The closures affect the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, Nanaimo Ice Centre, Beban Park recreation and social centre, Bowen Park complex and Oliver Woods Community Centre and other rental facilities.

As a result, all registered recreation programs including day camps and drop-in activities are cancelled, as are all facility rentals.

“There’s no question this will be challenging for people, and those directly impacted by it,” Mayor Leonard Krog said. “Having said that, the need to contain the virus and protect public safety is paramount. And I do think that people are prepared to and do understand the necessity for that.”

Elsewhere, North Cowichan closed all its recreation facilities, while Campbell River and the Strathcona Regional District closed all recreation facilities, community centres and community halls. The Comox Valley Regional District closed its sports centre, aquatic centre and curling club.

In Sidney, the town moved to restrict public access to all municipal buildings, including the town hall, community safety building, drivers’ services and the public works yard.

The town advised residents to pay bills online, at their financial institution or by dropping payments in the letterbox at the municipal hall. For other inquiries, residents were urged to email or telephone the appropriate department.

The Capital Regional District, meanwhile, announced that its board will meet Wednesday, but will consider whether to cancel standing committee meetings until further notice.

The district said activities that result in close contact or that take place in confined spaces will be scrapped, including classes and programs in smaller community halls; workshops and training events in small rooms or facilities; family workshops and guided tours as well as public tours at the Hartland landfill and the Learning Centre.

The Salt Spring Island Community Market is also cancelled.

Earlier, Langford worked with the North Langford Recreation Centre and City Centre Park to close all recreation facilities, including Goudy Field, Westhills Stadium, Playzone and Langford Bowling Lanes.

The closures took effect at the end of the day on March 14 and will remain in place for 30 days.

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