Kariya Park open as cherry blossom season looms in Mississauga, but COVID could change things

 

One of Mississauga's most idyllic parks is currently open to anyone who wants to enjoy the scenery, but it's not yet clear if it'll remain open when its locally famous cherry blossoms start blooming in late April or early May. 

"Though Kariya Park is currently open, we encourage all residents to take advantage of the virtual option to safely enjoy the cherry blossoms this year, to help stop the spread of COVID-19," Catherine Monast, a spokesperson for the city, said in an email to insauga.com.

The park, which is popular amongst nature-lovers and selfie-seekers every spring, features 65 cherry blossom trees of different varieties and colours.

The trees were given as a gift from Kariya, Japan.  

"If you do choose to visit in person, please keep in mind that, as with all of our parks, current COVID-19 restrictions and public health measures must be followed including maintaining physical distance of two metres (six feet) from others. To keep themselves and others safe, park users should also wear a face covering, even when outdoors, if physical distancing cannot be maintained," Monast says. 

Last year, the city showcased the blossoms on its official website and closed the park to residents in a bid to discourage crowding. 

According to the Sakura in High Park blog, the warm spring weather we've been enjoying in the GTA could prompt the buds on trees to begin developing sooner rather than later. 

The blog says that this year, we should expect the cherry blossoms to bloom between the last week of April and the first week of May.

The trees only stay in bloom for approximately two weeks.

At a recent press conference, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie signalled that the city might consider allowing in-person visits with additional public safety measures—such as timed or ticketed entry policies—in place, but said no decision has been made. 

"It’s a great question whether we do it by webcam again this year, but it’s such a shame because of course, it is an outdoor activity and maybe we can monitor the safe entrance and the capacity flow of people going passing through," Crombie told reporters.  

"I would love everyone to experience them if they haven’t, so this is a discussion we’ve yet to have but perhaps there are some other options. Perhaps there is a way to manage the crowds, maybe booking an appointment or reservation, whatever it might take. Otherwise, of course, they will be up on the webcam."

Although outdoor transmission of COVID-19 appears to be rare and public health officials are recommending people choose outdoor activities over indoor gatherings, it's not yet clear if possible new restrictions will force the city to restrict in-person cherry blossom visits. 

On March 31, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that 2,333 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ontario, with 433 in Peel (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon). 

Critical Care Services Ontario said that 421 COVID patients are currently being treated in Ontario's ICUs—a new record.  

"Based on the current public health measures, Kariya Park is open and accessible.  If conditions change and it’s recommended that in-person visits are not safe, only a virtual option will be offered," Monast says. 

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