Many summertime decisions put off as Edmonton officials monitor COVID-19 pandemic

This will be a make it or break it long weekend for Edmonton’s 38 dog parks.

During city council’s Emergency Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, the word was made expressly that if there is too much crowding on Friday, the city could decide as early as Saturday to close them.

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin gave the warning.

“It will be evaluated tomorrow (Friday) and if we’re not seeing it (social distancing), we’re not waiting to make a decision.”

“If we’re observing that there isn’t adherence to the requirements of Alberta Health, the public health orders, then we will take the appropriate steps,” Laughlin later told reporters.

“Quite frankly, we’re not going to wait.”

Last week, the city had decided to close four fenced-in dog parks, while making the other 38 on-leash all times, just like every other public space in Edmonton.

“What we found was, because of the nature of dogs off-leash and the need to be under control, we found that there was significant interaction between not only dogs running loose but owners in trying to control those dogs, which was in close proximity to each other,” said David Aitken, who is leading the city’s task team on the pandemic.

Mayor Don Iveson told reporters he agrees with drawing a line in the sand.

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“We had some feedback that people are frustrated by that change. I understand that it may be an unpopular measure for some, but quite frankly, compared to closing them outright, I think it was a reasonable step.”

That prompted a lot of inquiries about festivals.

Laughlin said so far they’re leaving it up to the individual events.

“I think we’d really like the festivals to take the appropriate actions that they feel they should related to the pandemic and the forecast that the province has provided.

“If we start to see that there’s not an appetite for some of these festivals to do that then we could take an escalated approach, which is a more broad mandate of cancellation.”

For 2020, 292 events had been scheduled, the councillors were told. So far, 55 have been cancelled. The latest example was Thursday, when the Jazz Festival decided to cancel its run in June.

Iveson said they want to leave the door open for some events to reschedule later in the summer if the pandemic allows for the province to change the guidelines on the number of people gathering in one place.

“A time will come where we’ll have enough information to say, by a certain date festivals should expect to be cancelled, but I think the other conversation that’s happening is, if that’s going to come into effect, what mitigation can be put in place in terms of potentially postponing rather than just cancelling outright?”

As for city owned sports and recreational fields, the councillors were told that the sport governing bodies that run everything — right down to childrens’ soccer and baseball — are still considering the immediate future.

Deputy city manager Rob Smyth said things are cancelled through the end of April.

“They’re looking to potentially to extend their season to later summer but they don’t want to make that call right away.”

City council is waiting for legislation that was introduced this week to be enacted. It would allow a local state of emergency to be called for 90 days.

When that happens, city council intends to continue to meet once a week, however it could extend its local state of emergency for 30 days.

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