High Park cherry blossoms go virtual again with #BloomAtHome, park remains open for local use

With the warm spring weather and bud development on the City of Toronto’s cherry blossom trees, the City is making arrangements for Torontonians to experience the bloom of the High Park cherry blossom trees from home again this year. In keeping with the provincial Stay-at-Home order, currently in effect across Toronto and to protect our healthcare system, the City is working to prevent crowding and gathering in High Park by offering a virtual view of the blooms while maintaining local pedestrian and cyclist access to the park for essential fresh air and exercise. To ensure people have ample space to practise physical distancing, the park will be closed to vehicle traffic.

In a typical year, tens of thousands of people visit High Park to view the blossoming Sakura (cherry blossom) trees. The blossoms typically last between four to 10 days, depending on weather. The peak bloom period usually occurs from late April to early May. Following the warm weather this spring, blossoms are expected to bloom in mid- to late April.

Given the current wave of COVID-19 in Toronto, amplified by variants of concern, access to areas of High Park with cherry blossom trees will not be permitted during their pre- and peak-bloom period because maintaining proper physical distancing in these areas will not be possible. There are three areas in High Park which feature cherry blossom trees – Cherry Hill, near the sports fields and at the Jamie Bell Playground. The public can expect these areas of the park to be enclosed with fencing to prevent in-person viewing of the trees and all park gates and entrances to be closed to vehicle traffic. Local visitors are encouraged to walk or bike to the park. The closure dates are weather-dependent and will be announced when the bloom period is determined.

To encourage residents to stay home and stay safe, the City will provide a 24-hour 4K ‘BloomCam’ of the blossoming trees in High Park at www.toronto.ca/cherryblossoms allowing residents to experience the #BloomAtHome. Rogers and the Toronto Public Library Bookmobile will again power the internet connectivity required to bring the virtual experience into viewers’ homes.

City enforcement officials and the Toronto Police Service will be onsite to prevent vehicle access to the park and ensure people stay away from the fenced off areas of the park. People are required to maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet) from people they do not reside with. Masks are encouraged outdoors in situations where physical distancing is difficult and are mandatory while using washroom facilities and while waiting in line.

City enforcement officials and Toronto Police Services may patrol other smaller sites of cherry blossoms in Toronto. There are more than 1,500 parks in Toronto, and in order to avoid crowding, residents are encouraged to visit their local parks rather than travelling to destination parks such as High Park. People who choose to visit their local parks for exercise should only access the park with members of the same household. If a park or amenity, such as a playground, is crowded, people should visit another park or return another time.

In 1959, the Japanese ambassador to Canada presented 2,000 trees to the people of Toronto on behalf of the people of Tokyo. The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto having accepted many relocated Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Many of those trees were planted in High Park on the hillside overlooking Grenadier Pond.

More information about cherry blossoms and plans for this year will be available at www.toronto.ca/cherryblossoms.

Toronto, like all Ontario municipalities, is in the Shutdown Zone of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework and subject to a provincial Stay-at-Home order. Everyone in the city should be staying home except for essential reasons such as groceries shopping, medication pick-up or exercise and being sure to stay as close to home as possible. Please review the City’s COVID-19: Guide for Residents for information on what is and is not permitted under provincial regulations and City bylaws, available at www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-reopening-recovery-rebuild/covid-19-guide-for-toronto-residents/.

Quotes:

“While we recognize that experiencing the blossoming of the Sakura trees has become a rite of spring for many Torontonians, it is imperative that we protect the health care system and the broader community. Our public health officials have been clear that now is not the time for large groups of people to gather outside. At the same time, the City continues to provide local options for essential exercise and fresh air in its parks and green spaces. Thank you to City staff who have worked on this plan to ensure that High Park can remain open for the community this year during the peak bloom. I encourage everyone to enjoy the #BloomAtHome livestream again this year.”

– Mayor John Tory

“Toronto’s Sakura (cherry blossom) trees are well-loved and sought out harbingers of spring. While the joy they bring to Torontonians is immeasurable, in the interest of public health, we need to prevent people from gathering at High Park to see them. I hope people will enjoy the virtual #BloomAtHome again this year.”

– Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park), Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee

“Given the City’s current case counts, the limited capacity of Toronto hospital’s ICUs and the city’s overall positivity rate, I’m glad the City will be offering people the opportunity to take in the cherry blossom bloom from the safety of their homes. While High Park will remain open this year so that local residents can continue to get exercise and fresh air, I ask you to please stay home. The cherry blossom trees will be enclosed to prevent in-person viewing. Their beauty, no matter how magnificent, is not worth a life.”

– Councillor Gord Perks (Parkdale-High Park)

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