Changes authorized by civic politicians in Bridgewater in recent weeks reclassifies town-owned parks as trails, meaning routes, such as ones running through Glen Allan Park and Generations Active Park, can stay open during a provincial State of Emergency.
Amendments to the Town Property Bylaw were made against the wishes of staff, who feel it'll only create more confusion among the public.
While the State of Emergency has been in place since March, municipal parks in the province re-opened following temporary restrictions due to COVID-19 concerns. Town council wished to change its own legislation in the off-chance rules are tightened again.
It was council's belief residents should have access to the trails even if they couldn't enjoy the parks.
"Bridgewater has an extensive trail network within its park systems. The effect of the provincial directive was to close a large portion of the trail network within the town," Jessica McDonald, the town's community development director, said in a written memo to council.
Before the calendar moved to April from March, it was interpreted that trail systems within town parks could remain open for use by residents. "However," McDonald's report said, the "Bridgewater Police Service is unable to enforce partial closures. In order to consider the trail systems within parks open, then the park itself must be deemed a trail and identified as such in the Town Property By-law."
Town staff felt the changes circumvented public health messaging, especially the physical distancing and travel directives. It makes more sense to maintain consistency with communications, understanding and enforcement, McDonald's report said.
"Thinking beyond this unprecedented pandemic situation, there is no reason nor benefit to designating some parks as trails," the report goes on. "Added confusion about whether town parks are open or closed will only increase the enforcement activity and burden on our police."