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No blanket curfew for city parks, but some could start closing early

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.”

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.

Author

Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the editor and owner of OttawaStart.com. He holds a journalism diploma and a certificate in pre-technology from Algonquin College.