Concerns raised about large crowds at Kitchener parks
KITCHENER -- Kitchener residents are raising concerns about crowds at local parks despite an ongoing stay-at-home order.
Hundreds of people were out at Kitchener's Victoria Park on Thursday evening as the weather warms.
"With the weather improving everyone wants to get outside, and getting outside is encouraged, but when you congregate without masks and not follow the measures that the problems occur," Waterloo Region's Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Lauckner said.
Kitchener bylaw officials said they've heard multiple complaints about park gatherings, especially in larger outdoor spaces.
"Generally our focus has been education over enforcement," said Gloria MacNeil, director of bylaw enforcement in Kitchener.
Just hours after the province extended the stay-at-home order to June 2, many people could be seen not physically distancing or wearing masks.
"We aren't going to be targeting the parent taking their child to the park," said Ashley Dietrich with Waterloo regional police. "We will be focusing on those defying the stay-at-home order."
Outdoor spaces like parks remain open to the public, but health officials have asked people to only gather with people from their household and to maintain at least two metres away from others.
Police said two tickets were handed out at Victoria Park earlier this month for a large gathering.
The park was quieter on Friday afternoon as dozens of families took in the sun.
"I do feel it's important for the children's mental health to get out and on the playground, but we often have them wearing a mask if they are on the equipment," resident Stacey Bricknell said.
"I feel very uncomfortable," said Laurie Schofield, who was at the park. "If they all had their masks on, I would feel a little bit more at ease."
In Toronto, officials have painted physical distancing circles on the grass at some locations. But, Waterloo Region has no plans at this point to do something similar here.
"Having those indications would be useful for people who are really heavily trying to follow the regulations," resident Selena DaCosta said.
Lauckner encouraged people to find outdoor spaces where others aren't congregating.
"There are individuals who may not have a backyard that need to utilize these (parks) in a distanced way," he said.