Kids rejoice as some playgrounds reopen

Kids in the West Shore are back playing on the swings and slides of their neighbourhood playgrounds, but those in Victoria and Saanich will have to wait a bit longer as each municipality crafts its plan for a safe reopening.

Colwood and Langford parks staff on Thursday removed the caution tape that has blocked off play structures for months and posted signs around the park reminding people to keep a two-metre distance from others, wash their hands before using the equipment and avoid using the playground if sick. The guidelines for playgrounds and splash parks were issued by Island Health on Monday.

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Although there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in playgrounds, the measures can help to reduce potential risks, the health bulletin said.

The Sooke school district also opened school playgrounds on Thursday after consulting with surrounding municipalities, said district spokesperson Stephanie Sherlock.

Playgrounds in Capital Regional District-managed parks will be open on Monday. The CRD-operated Panorama Recreation Centre is allowing access to outdoor facilities such as tennis courts, basketball courts and outdoor fitness and yoga classes. The weight room will be open June 10 but spots must be booked online in advance.

Island Health also advised that drinking fountains should be switched to touchless or foot-pedal operation if possible. Public washrooms should be well-stocked with soap, and cleaned and disinfected once a day.

Playgrounds across Metro Vancouver reopened on June 1 amid declining COVID-19 cases.

Playgrounds in Esquimalt will open on Tuesday.

“Our residents value our neighbourhood playgrounds and we are thrilled to make them available again,” Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins said in a statement. “We are hopeful that with our community following Dr. [Bonnie] Henry’s guidelines during this Phase 2 process, we can look to resuming more of the activities we have missed during COVID-19".

The City of Victoria is planning a phased return of its recreation facilities, including playgrounds, based on the guidance of the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association and public health, said city spokesman Bill Eisenhauer. No reopening date has been set for playgrounds or rec centres, he said, however a staff report will be sent to council in the coming weeks.

“After an extended closure, play equipment will be inspected and guidelines for use posted before playgrounds are safely reopened,” Eisenhauer said.

Playgrounds in Saanich, including those on Saanich school district property, will remain closed for now.

“We know our residents miss having access to these facilities that they enjoy. We’re in the process of incorporating the guidelines from [Island Health] in our reopening plan and look forward to welcoming residents back to the playgrounds once the necessary protocols have been put in place,” Saanich spokesperson Megan Catalano in an email.

Saanich school district superintendant Dave Eberwein said there are no immediate plans to open school playgrounds but the situation is being monitored daily.

Day camps operated by Saanich Parks, Recreation and Community Services will start on June 29, according to the district.

No date has been set for when Saanich’s four recreational centres will reopen.

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