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Timeline to reopen playgrounds still unclear for many Metro Vancouver municipalities

Last Updated May 20, 2020 at 12:48 pm PDT

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Summary

It's unclear when most local playgrounds will reopen, despite B.C. entering Phase Two of its COVID-19 recovery plan

Burnaby, Coquitlam mayors say they're waiting on more information from health officials

While no city has unveiled an official plan to reopen playgrounds yet, Richmond plans to reopen them in a couple weeks

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – Don’t expect playgrounds around some parts of Metro Vancouver to reopen right away.

As we adjust to a little more freedom with Phase Two of B.C.’s reopening plan, parents are likely looking forward getting their kids out and playing again.

However, some cities, like Burnaby, don’t yet have a timeline for opening playgrounds.

Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley says he’s waiting on more guidance from the province.

“We haven’t got really strong information on the proper way to maintain the playgrounds, and until we’re sure of that information in how we keep those playgrounds safe, we will be keeping them closed,” he explains.

So far, no Metro Vancouver municipality has unveiled a plan to reopen their playgrounds.

If you were to head to one in the Burnaby area right now, Hurley notes you’ll likely see a fence around it.

“Or, if they don’t have the big fencing, they’re taped off with a plastic type snow fencing,” Hurley tells NEWS 1130.

Keeping children safe

With temperatures warming up and it feeling more and more like summer each day, Hurley says he understands why people may be feeling antsy.

“There’s always some pressure. No matter what leadership role you try to take there’ll always be those who think you’re doing not enough and there’ll be those who think you’re doing too much. It’s our job to try and find out what that proper balance is to ensure that there’s safety,” he says. “We do not want to risk any children in our city. Until we’re confident, we will not open them.”

The greatest challenge, he acknowledges, is ensuring the playgrounds are safe, however, he says that is the number one consideration.

What playgrounds will actually look like once the city is able to reopen has yet to be determined. Hurley says direction will come from health authorities.

The City of Burnaby has reached out to the appropriate departments for guidance, he adds.

“We don’t enjoy having our playgrounds closed, either. We would love to open everything up, but we’re certainly not going to do that until we’re very confident of the safety.”

The City of Coquitlam is in the same boat, with Mayor Richard Stewart saying it will continue to listen to the advice of experts before making any decisions.

“We have to do it safely and we have to do it, I think, in lockstep with the provincial government’s guidance, the guidance of the Centre for Disease Controls, and Dr. Bonnie Henry,” Stewart says. “Our staff have been working closely with both the Fraser Health authority and the Ministry of Health, and, of course, other municipalities. We all want to try to do this, somewhat, together so that there isn’t confusion and there isn’t conflict between communities.”

Stewart adds all communities are “facing the same realities,” but adds each of them recognize their facilities and situations can differ.

If Coquitlam deviates from the general consensus, Stewart says it’ll only be because there’s a valid reason to do so.

“No one wants to rush this, no one wants to make a mistake,” Stewart tells NEWS 1130, adding B.C. as a whole has made strides in its fight against the coronavirus. “We ought to be very careful to secure and maintain that low level of infection across our communities.”

There is one thing about playground closures Stewart says he enjoys.

“Because it allows me an opportunity to use them without being ridiculed by the smaller children.”

Richmond playgrounds to gradually reopen in weeks

While there’s no specific date for reopening of Richmond’s playgrounds, Mayor Malcolm Brodie says they’ll likely be open for use when kids head back to school next month.

He tells NEWS 1130 many of the city’s playgrounds are on school grounds.

“So it just makes sense that we would have a coordinated city and school board approach to the reopening of the playgrounds,” Brodie says.

Despite uncertain timelines from other mayors, Brodie believes other municipalities will also reopen playgrounds around the same time.

The City of Richmond has a multi-step plan to reopen its facilities and parks, with the first phase taking effect on Wednesday. Through phase one, Richmond is reopening sports fields for “recreational, unorganized use.”

Parks have not been closed in Richmond, he notes.