Northern communities begin process of reopening

Northern communities are reopening their parks, campgrounds, cabins, lodges and resorts following the province’s phase two plan regarding COVID-19.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee said Manitoba residents have done a great job of following public health measures and the low numbers of COVID-19 cases show that these actions have helped to flatten the curve.

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“I commend northern leaders and residents who have worked to prevent COVID-19 from travelling to our communities,” he said in a press release. “Opening recreation and sporting activities for children and youth will be helpful to their mental wellness. Increasing occupancy in child care facilities will help working parents and guardians. These are important steps as we slowly work to open up our economic activities.”

Settee added that while MKO supports the ability of Manitoba residents to travel to northern parks, campgrounds, resorts, lodges, and cabins, they are asking the province to continue prohibiting people from outside of the province to travel to Northern Manitoba.

Flin Flon's annual Summer in the Parks program will be opening starting June 9 to Aug. 21 for children aged four to 10.

Flin Flon The Water and The Wild recreation administrator Caitlin Bailey said the program will be stationed at the Rotary Wheel located at the Flin Flon Tourist Bureau and Campground area.

“The program provides a chance for the children of our community to be active and outgoing, to develop new interests, learn new skills, and to interact with their peers in a safe, welcoming and active environment,” she said May 28.

Bailey said after a lengthy discussion with the recreation director and follow up with Recreation Connections Manitoba as well as the Manitoba government, they felt they were able to continue offering the program whilst keeping everyone safe and healthy.

“Recreation has always been beneficial to people’s well-being and mental health and we feel that at this time it is very important to offer options for our youth to stay engaged with their community and each other,” she said. “We want to provide an opportunity for the children in our community to take part in something educational, engaging and interactive in a safe environment.”

Playgrounds and parks in the City of Thompson officially reopened for use May 26 after the city council passed a resolution to that effect.

Thompson director of recreation, parks, and culture Carol Taylor said outdoor recreation is among the safer ways for people to get out and get some exercise during the pandemic.

“There is plenty of space to distance ourselves, so we felt parks should be open to enjoy responsibly. Summer is short and we want to ensure that our citizens can get out and enjoy our outdoor areas,” she said.

Taylor added that people in Thompson are still expected to respect social distancing guidelines, practice proper hygiene and discuss these issues with their children.

“While out in our parks and playgrounds, it is important to follow the physical distancing rules and speak to children regarding proper hand washing,” she said. “We have managed as a community to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 and we should do our best to keep it that way.”

Nicole Wong covers northern and Indigenous issues for the Winnipeg Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.

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