New "champions" will remind people in Vancouver's parks about physical distancing

Apr 4 2020, 10:57 am

The Vancouver Park Board is sending out more staff to the city’s parks to remind people to practice physical distancing so they don’t spread the novel coronavirus.

The Park Board’s new “champions,” who are different from park rangers, will dress in bright yellow vests and be deployed in the cities busiest parks: Stanley Park, Kitsilano Beach, Sunset Beach, and English Bay.

“The city’s parks and beaches remain open, and we recognize the important role [they] play in overall health,” Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley told reporters Saturday morning.

But in order for parks to stay open, people need to obey the rules, Bromley added.

“If we continue to see people gathering in groups, we will be forced to take further measures,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to avoid that.”

The 25 champions will be focused on education rather than enforcement, Bromley said. Issuing fines is still a park ranger responsibility.

Two champions held hula hoops at English Bay Saturday, demonstrating how they’ll show residents what proper physical distancing looks like.

Bromley added that park patrons have mostly been responsive to warnings so far, and he’s hopeful people will cooperate and listen to the champions.

“Typically it’s people who are not being malicious, they’re just following old habits,” Bromley said.

The Park Board has already closed Vancouver’s fitness centres, pools, and sports recreation facilities. Staff have removed logs from beaches, put caution tape on children’s play structures, and placed 5,000 signs around the city reminding people to stay two metres apart from one another.

“Any location where people were clustering in small groups, we had to address that,” Bromley said.