The city won’t pursue a uniform 8 p.m. closing time for its parks, but “certain problematic parks” could be closed by 9 p.m. or earlier if the local councillor approves.
The idea of an early closing time came from Mayor Jim Watson, in response to recent problems at parks such as large gatherings, public drinking, and littering. When Ian Black, CBC Ottawa’s climatologist, tweeted a picture showing the aftermath of a recent large gathering at Vincent Massey Park (not a city park), Watson replied: “This is completely disgraceful [and] unacceptable behaviour … it needs to stop.”
This is completely disgraceful & unacceptable behaviour - drinking in public ; probably not social distancing & littering; Whilw this particular park is federally controlled it needs to stop. I’ve convened a meeting tomorrow to get this nonsense to end -We are in a pandemic!— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) April 11, 2021
On Wednesday, a memo from Steve Kanellakos, city manager, revealed a shift in tack. Instead of a total closure of all city parks at 8 p.m., the city will allow the early closure of select parks with agreement of the local councillor. In such cases, the park would still open at 5 a.m., as usual, but would close by 9 p.m. or perhaps earlier. There would be signage on-site for a park designated for early closure. City parks are normally open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Watson’s initial suggestion was not beloved by all. Councillors Mathieu Fleury, Jeff Leiper, Rawlson King, Catherine McKenney and Shawn Menard sent an open letter to Watson, criticizing the proposal. “We are concerned that the proposal to impose an 8 p.m. curfew will not impact COVID-19 infection numbers but it will cause undue harm to many residents,” the letter said.
“Public drinking, gathering in large crowds, vandalism, those activities are already not allowed,” McKenney told CBC Radio on Wednesday. They added that many people need or want to use park space in the evening, and would have been harmed by the untargeted policy.
The new policy documented on Wednesday was better received.