By: Mike Anderson

The Town of Georgina has announced that effective immediately it is closing the outdoor skating rink, as well as the toboggan, tube and terrain hill at the ROC, according to a media release issued on January 14.

However, the “balance of the ROC property will remain open for permitted use.”

The closures are in response to the province’s stay-at-home order and will be in effect for a minimum of 28 days.

“Georgina, as part of York Region, has been deemed a hot spot for the spread of the virus and now, more than ever, our role in helping to stop the spread is critical. We need to follow the provincial guidelines which means staying home and reducing the number of people we come into contact with outside our immediate household,” said Mayor Margaret Quirk in the release.

“These additional closures are not unique to Georgina, and we need to work together and take strong action as a community to stop the spread of the virus.”

According to the release, the Town is also closing neighbourhood rinks throughout Georgina.

“The Town recognizes the commitment and efforts of volunteers who work on these (neighbourhood rinks), with the hope they will be able to reopen in the future after the 28 day shutdown,” the release reads.

With the closure of neighbourhood rinks, the Town is issuing a warning not to skate on stormwater management ponds.

“Stormwater management ponds may become enticing for recreational use. Residents are reminded that they are not intended or designed for skating as temperatures change quickly.

These activities are not permitted. This is extremely dangerous and poses many safety risks for those venturing on them at any time,” the release adds.

While skating, tobogganing and tubing will be prohibited at the ROC, most Town managed outdoor recreational areas will remain open.

“Georgina parks, trails, and playgrounds will remain open for permitted activities such as tobogganing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and walking. Residents must follow all health and safety measures as outlined by the province,” the release states.

The Pefferlaw Ice Pad (PIP) will also remain open.

According to the Town, the Ice Pad is a “controlled environment” with “strict capacity limits.” And all participants must complete a health screening and pre-book skating sessions online.

“Public skating is the only permitted activity at the PIP, with hockey and shinny games not allowed (no sticks and no pucks). Physical distancing of two metres must be maintained and masks/face coverings are required to be worn at all times. The Town will continue to evaluate the PIP and make changes as required,” the release states.

The Town’s decision to close additional outdoor recreational facilities follows Newmarket’s temporary closure of its outdoor skating rinks for 24-hours on January 13, pending a review of the province’s stay-at-home order.

However, the Mayor of Newmarket recently announced that following a conversation with Premier Doug Ford, all outdoor skating, community rinks and tobogganing areas will be reopened with “enhanced measures” to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“I want to thank Premier Ford for responding to me directly and quickly with clarification related to tobogganing and skating and he has assured me that both activities are allowable,” Mayor John Taylor said in a news release issued on January 14.

“Newmarket will add enhanced protocols and supervision to ensure that these activities take place in the safest manner possible. We are pleased to continue to provide outdoor opportunities for our residents to stay active, healthy and safe during these difficult times.”

The Post asked the Town if it intends to reverse the closures following the Premier’s direction to Mayor Taylor, however, CAO David Reddon said the Town remains “committed” to its decision.

“Each Municipality must consider their resources and capabilities to address and support the respective Provincial Regulations and Orders while keeping in mind the safety, health and well-being of their respective communities,” Mr. Reddon said in an email to The Post.

“Georgina has made the decision to close our ROC outdoor skating rink and the municipally maintained toboggan hill as a measure of supporting the Provincial Stay at Home Order. We remain committed to this decision.”

According to Mr. Reddon, the Town will also proceed with the closure of neighborhood skating rinks.

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