Haliburton Highlands Golf Course president and general manager Randal Wood said he is confused by the latest health restrictions that have shuttered his operation.
The province targeted recreation in its latest efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 April 17, closing facilities as cases continue to spike across the province. The closures included golf courses, basketball courts and soccer fields, with limited exceptions. But golf courses are pushing back on the decision.
Wood said the open spaces make golf a safe activity and they were able to operate without trouble in the past year.
“Golf was one of the first things they opened during the pandemic last season and has a proven track record in 2020,” Wood said. “Our protocols are established, and they’ve proven to be safe.”
The restrictions closed many recreational facilities throughout the County, including tennis and pickleball courts, skate parks and picnic tables. The province has said more restrictions are needed as COVID-19 reaches a new peak in Ontario and intensive care units become full.
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking said the restrictions are about being precautious to avoid gatherings at this time.
“The policy direction was taken to be extremely cautious and making sure there was going to be no opportunities for gatherings in such spaces,” Bocking said. “I agree it’s a challenge. We want to encourage people to be physically active and be outside.”
The government targeted other outdoor recreation sites earlier in the shutdown. Overnight seasonal campsites were closed April 3.
Haliburton Forest general manager Tegan Legge said although she understands encouraging people not to travel, the restriction seems silly.
“Our campsites are very private, very well-spaced,” Legge said. “If I could open to the local community so they could get out of their houses and camp lakeside, that would be great.”
Still, Legge said given the time of the year, the business impact is limited. But she said that could change if the restrictions extend to the May long weekend. They are currently set to end just before then.
“It would definitely really hurt. Our bottom line is the May long weekend is our first big weekend of the season,” Legge said. “It definitely would affect our bottom line.”
Legge said there are still trails and activities such as canoeing to enjoy. She added it is important to have opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation in the pandemic.
“Being able to touch trees and the ground and the soil are more important than it ever has been before,” Legge said. “We know everybody coming out hiking, biking, paddling, it gives them that sense of getting out of the pandemic for a minute … It doesn’t feel like the pandemic is happening up here.”