OTTAWA – Ottawa city councils are increasingly backing the reopening of golf courses and other outdoor recreational areas such as tennis courts, which were closed after Ontario issued a statewide stay-at-home order to contain the rising COVID-19 cases.
Map update: Approved by Golf Canada on April 26, 2021.
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Golf in April was supposed to be a sensational start to the season, but instead every course in Ontario has been closed. It’s not what Steve Spratt, owner of Falcon Ridge Golf Club, expected.
“We did everything right last year and we thought we would continue this year as well,” says Spratt, who has been running the course for more than 20 years. “Last year we were very busy and did everything safely. We had no incidents here; In fact, there were 20 million golfers in Ontario with not a single case of COVID from a golf course. “
When provincial officials announced an extension of the four-week home stay on April 16, golf courses and outdoor recreation areas such as tennis courts and baseball diamonds were closed. Playgrounds were also closed, but that decision was quickly reversed following a public appeal.
There was a call for golf courses to be reopened. A petition has more than 91,000 signatures asking the province to reconsider what many consider to be a physically distant, safe outdoor sport.
Ottawa City Councilor Diane Deans also supports golf courses reopening and plans to send a letter to Premier Doug Ford in hopes that he will reconsider the closure.
“I don’t think allowing a socially distant golf course will lead to poorer health outcomes,” says Deans. “Any outdoor activity that can be safely done should be allowed. Whether tennis or pickleball, any recreational activity that I believe we should allow for the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”
According to Deans, other city councils are ready to cast their voices and hope that officials from the surrounding communities will too. While Deans understands the need for constraints and making decisions about what to close can be complicated, she adds that rules must be fair, evidence-based, scientifically valuable, and lead to better health outcomes.
“If you don’t do that job, people start questioning the rules, and I think that’s where we are with golf,” says Deans.
Ottawa Medical Health Officer Dr. Vera Etches says that given the current case load and the increasing burden on hospitals, a regional reopening is not yet likely.
“We have to lower the level further so that we can, for example, be the first to open schools,” says Dr. Etches. “It’s a little early to talk about lifting restrictions, but it’s coming and we’re especially thinking about when we can reopen schools.”
Ontario’s order to stay at home is expected to end on May 20th.