Toronto Mayor John Tory has officially announced the closure of High Park during the cherry blossom bloom this season. He says virtual walkthroughs will be set up across multiple platforms.
Wednesday's announcement was one that residents of Toronto and surrounding municipalities have been waiting for. Toronto’s mayor took the podium Wednesday afternoon, as he does every day, to discuss parameters around COVID-19.
There have been rumours that High Park would not be open for the popular annual cherry blossom bloom. Wednesday’s announcement confirmed those thoughts when Tory officially announced the closure of the park during the bloom.
“I know how important this event has become over the years because of the thousands of people that go to High Park, year in and year out, to catch this sight of these beautiful trees,” Tory said.
“We know that maintaining physical distancing is simply not possible with the size of crowds that come through High Park every year to see the blossoms. For this reason, the city has made the difficult decision, based entirely on the advice of our public health professionals, to close the park for the duration of the bloom,” Tory continued.
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He mentioned the ability for residents to observe the bloom from the comfort of their own homes via virtual streams.
“For the health and safety of the residents and park visitors, it's just one more sacrifice that our community is making to defeat this virus," Tory said. "To encourage residents to stay home and stay safe, the city is working on a virtual walkthrough of the blossoming trees in High Park which would be made available on a variety of different platforms. People will be able to experience this year's cherry blossom season in High Park through multiple live stream events and videos."
He said more details would be announced soon but wanted residents to be aware of the closure ahead of time.
“The closure of High Park will apply only during the cherry blossom pre-bloom and peak bloom time periods. High Park has already been closed to vehicular traffic for several weeks and that will continue throughout the duration of the pandemic,” Tory clarified.
WATCH BELOW: 'I KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THIS EVENT HAS BECOME OVER THE YEARS'
Toronto is following suit of many other major cities that are also home to cherry blossom trees including Washington, D.C.
Tory also said the decision to close the park was not made lightly, and that city staff concluded that a partial closure wouldn't be feasible.
“Believe me, I have no interest in closing the park nor does any city official, nor does any member of city council. But I do want to save lives and I certainly do want to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can get back to cherry blossom festival and many other kinds of events and just our normal lives in the future years, and in the future weeks, for that matter and so that we can get on with restarting our entire city as soon as possible,” he added.