It was less than a month ago that the City celebrated the announcement that cherry blossom season was starting to take shape in High Park.
One of the most popular springtime activities in Toronto, the attraction has gathered so many visitors in the past that last year the City chose to ban parking in High Park because it was becoming too overrun with sightseers.
Speaking with CP24 in a Skype interview this morning, Mayor Tory said, “It is a big concern for us. I really hate to say this but we are going to have a plan and it may well involve just closing the park for that period of time."
The popular website Sakura in High Park has already stopped updating the public in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto.
The City of Toronto recently announced the closure of all park amenities, including sports fields, off-leash dog parks, and playground equipment. However, green spaces remain open to the public, with strict social distancing rules in place to ensure groups do not gather. Groups of more than five people are no longer allowed to meet in the province due to coronavirus worries.
“I have talked about the difficulty in practical terms in closing parks. Big parks like High Park, what are you going to do put yellow tape around the entire park? But I think what we have talked about is closing vehicle access to the park entirely so that people can’t take their cars in cause a lot of people who come to see the cherry blossoms come from elsewhere in the city. It is a shame but it is just one of those things where health has to come first,” Tory added.
Last year marked the 60th anniversary of Toronto’s High Park cherry blossoms as, in 1959, former Japanese ambassador Toru-Hagiwara donated 2,000 sakura trees on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo. It was meant as a gesture of appreciation after Toronto took in a number of relocated Japanese-Canadians following World War II. Since then, the cherry blossoms have become a symbol of the friendship between Canada and Japan.
All City-led events and public permits have been cancelled until June 30th, including the Pride Parade, one of Toronto's single biggest annual events.