It's official, Toronto: High Park's beautiful cherry blossoms will have to be admired virtually this year, as the city has officially announced that the park will be closed during the pre-bloom and peak bloom periods.
Speaking at the city's daily press briefing this afternoon, Toronto Mayor John Tory said they'll be closing the park to prevent crowding based on recommendations from the city's medical officer of health, but they're currently working to make the cherry blossoms available online during the closure.
"While we understand many residents use High Park every day, a partial closure of the park isn't possible given the number of cherry blossom trees throughout the park and the size and layout of the park itself," notes a statement from the city.
"Health and parks staff believe this is the best plan to discourage gathering and protect public health."
According to the city, tens of thousands of people visit High Park to view the blossoming Sakura (cherry blossom) trees every year. The blossoms typically last between four and 10 days, depending on weather, and the peak bloom time period traditionally occurs from late April to early May.
The city says the park closure dates are weather-dependent and will be announced when the bloom period is determined.
"This will be disappointing both for people who love the Cherry Blossoms, and people who regularly use the park. But, our first duty is to keep each other safe," said city councillor Gord Perks in a statement.
Anyone caught not complying with the park closure by city bylaw officers or the Toronto Police Service may receive a set fine of $750 if a ticket is paid voluntarily, but the maximum fine can be up to $5,000.
To prevent residents from breaking these rules and to encourage them to stay home, the city is working on a virtual walk-through of the blossoming trees in High Park.
"Residents will be able to experience this year's cherry blossom season through multiple livestream events and videos. More details will be announced soon," notes the statement from the city.
The city also says this closure follows similar cherry blossom crowd control responses that have already occurred in Japan, Korea, Europe and Washington, D.C.
City officials say the cherry blossoms area at Trinity Bellwoods Park will also be enclosed by fencing with enforcement patrols during the bloom period, and city enforcement officials and Toronto Police Services may patrol other smaller sites of cherry blossoms in Toronto as well.
Meanwhile, parks staff will take advantage of the High Park closure and undertake extensive work including the removal of litter, debris, branches and other material that accumulates over the winter; grass cutting, turf maintenance, tree cutting and horticultural bed maintenance; and animal care, repairs to benches and maintenance activities, such as painting.
"I know this closure will be tough for local residents who enjoy High Park year-round and those who look forward to seeing the cherry blossoms every year. This virtual event and the proactive closure is meant to ensure the traditional overcrowding that happens at High Park during the annual cherry blossom bloom does not occur this year to further stop the spread of COVID-19," Tory said in a statement.
"We are following the advice of our professional public health officials to protect the health and safety of all residents and park visitors. Thank you in advance to the vast majority of residents who will respect this closure and understand this is needed to save lives. I look forward to joining residents in High Park in future years – after we have won the war against COVID-19 – to enjoy the cherry blossoms again."
by Mira Miller via blogTO