Vancouver park board gets ready to issue outdoor sport-facility permits

It's another sign that life will begin to look a little more normal around town

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      Sports teams and childcare programs will soon be able to return to Vancouver's playing fields, baseball diamonds, and courts.

      Today, the park board announced that outdoor sport-facility permits will be available beginning July 1.

      Any group that obtains a permit will be required to follow public-health requirements, including maintaining physical distancing.

      In addition, they'll have to practise proper hand hygiene and minimize the sharing of equipment while keeping it clean.

      The park board and Vancouver Coastal Health are prepared to revoke permits to anyone who doesn't comply with the rules.

      In March, these permits were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Since then, the park board has reopened golf courses, VanDusen Botanical Garden, tennis and pickleball courts, skate parks, synthetic sports fields, and basketball and volleyball courts.

      Disc golf, roller hockey, multisports courts, playgrounds, and pitch and putt facilities are also open.

      The park board is reviewing the feasibility of reopening other facilities based on input from Vancouver Coastal Health, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and its industry partners.

      On June 10, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issued a ministerial order protecting amateur sports groups, their employees, and volunteers from liability in connection with damages arising from the spread of COVID-19.

      That was done because most insurance companies are not providing coverage, which hampered amateur sports groups that wanted to provide programming. The ministerial orderr will remain in effect as long as the province is under a state of emergency under the Emergency Program Act.

      In return for the waiver, sports groups must follow viaSport's Return to Sport protocols and the advice of public-health officials.

      According to the order, there will be no immunity from liability if the sport organization, director, officer, employee, or volunteer was "grossly negligent".

      "We are thrilled that sport is making its return in the province,” viaSport CEO Charlene Krepiakevich said in response to the B.C. government's announcement. “This coordinated response to address concerns around volunteer and staff liability means that these not-for-profit organizations can focus on delivering safe, high-quality sport experiences for the people in their communities."

      There are more than 4,100 local sports organizations in B.C. Collectively, they have more than 800,000 youth and adult participants.