Usually at this time of year, residents and visitors from around the GTA would be shoulder to shoulder, taking in the cherry blossoms at High Park. But with social distancing restrictions in place, High Park is closed to the public, as most other parks across the city.
While the majority of people continue to follow social and physical distancing rules, the park closure wasn’t enough to deter a select few selfie-seekers overnight.
The city has set up a livestream on their website that broadcasts the blossoms during their brief bloom period and dubbed it BloomCam so residents can still get a glimpse of the Sakura flowers during peak bloom which lasts between four to ten days.
As it turns out, not only is it a great way to get a look at the beautiful rare blooms, but it was also perfect for capturing the two trespassers in the act as they climbed a cherry tree and took photos. They were caught on video wandering the park around 1:45 a.m.
Mayor John Tory said he does not regret the decision to close the park.
“Perhaps with the exception of those two, I believe people either stayed away from the park entirely, which is what we were trying to do — not because we were kill joys or because we didn’t want people to enjoy the blossoms — but because we were nervous based on the advice from the Medial Officer of Health, about the crowd scene and what that might do to spread the virus,” he said. “People thankfully stayed away. Do I have any second thoughts about that? No. I believe it was the right thing to do in the circumstances.”
Mayor Tory went on to say that opening parts of the park during the very short bloom season was an option initially, but was told by city officials that a partial closure would not be enough to ensure proper physical distancing.
The trespassers have not been found yet, but Toronto police tell CityNews the two people seen in the livestream footage could face charges of trespass to property and/or mischief and be issued a $750 ticket. They add that officers continue to conduct patrols of entryways, the park’s perimeter and onsite – including during the overnight hours.
Police and bylaw officers have been patrolling city parks and amenities since March. They say within the first four days of May alone, they’ve issued 11 physical distancing tickets and in total they’ve warned or spoken to over 13,000 people about the bylaws in place with regards to COVID-19.
Local media was welcomed into High Park Monday for a short period of time and CityNews’ cameras captured some beautiful views of the cherry blossoms in full bloom.