Popular park shut to limit crowds
Officers educate rather than ticket hordes of skaters at Bowness rink
Scads of skaters at northwest Calgary's Bowness Park prompted city police and bylaw officers to restrict access to the recreation area Wednesday.
Officials responded to concerns around crowding at the park as temperatures inched above freezing, leading hundreds to lace up their skates and head to the popular sheet of ice. It's the latest example of the COVID-19 pandemic putting high-traffic public spaces under the spotlight.
“Our officers who have responded are there to educate the users of the park and ice rink on social distancing and the public-health orders,” said Sue Wall, duty inspector with the city's community standards unit.
As the Bowness Park parking lot filled Wednesday, officials blocked entry to the park in an attempt to reduce crowding.
Bylaw officers did not issue any tickets to park users, Wall said, instead talking to them about public-health orders and providing masks if needed.
Face coverings are now required at Bowness Park when tying skates in bench areas or using fire pits, as well as when two metres of distance can't be maintained with people outside your household, the city said.
“When we've gone there, the majority of citizens using the park are complying with public-health orders and socially distancing as much as possible,” Wall said, adding there are some problem areas where distancing isn't possible that city crews are working to address.
City Coun. Ward Sutherland, whose Ward 1 contains Bowness Park, said he has visited the area each of the past several days to keep an eye on usage.
He said additional ramps have been added to access the skating area to help reduce congestion in those areas. He asked people to consider visiting the park before noon or after 6 p.m., as fewer people are usually out during those times.
“Remember that we have some additional parks in the northwest, including Bowmont and Dale Hodges parks that you can use,” Sutherland said.
“As well, a lot of people don't realize that some of our city golf courses are set up for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing,” he added.
Wall agreed, encouraging Calgarians to go to alternative locations if they find a park is busy when they arrive.
The concerns over crowding come the week after the city announced new recreation opportunities at Bowness Park, including ice bikes and a 1.6-kilometre skating trail lit by Christmas lights.
Sutherland said the park may in part be a victim of its own success, with the new attractions drawing many from across Calgary.
“It is getting huge attention, it's something new,” he said. “But, ultimately, it's also bringing additional capacity.
“People are really enjoying it and going out, with this spring weather everybody's taking advantage of it. And it's because of COVID, obviously. With restrictions of no one visiting your house, people are getting cabin fever.”
Elsewhere Wednesday, Calgary announced it had issued a total of 69 tickets for COVID-19 health infractions since Nov. 24, including 22 in the past week.
As well, 67 tickets have been issued to those failing to wear a mask indoors, in accordance with Calgary's mandatory mask bylaw. Six of those were given since Dec. 23.
Police officers patrolled crowds at malls over the Boxing Day weekend, the city said, with compliance high overall. The vast majority of Calgarians also followed public-health restrictions over the holidays, the city said, including those banning all social gatherings.