Soccer players do some drills at Newton Athletic Park on Thursday afternoon, March 19, a day after one Surrey resident says he saw “a full-blown soccer game” played at the park. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

‘Full-blown soccer game’ at Surrey park concerns resident amid COVID-19 fears

City of Surrey has closed recreation centres, pools and other facilities, but not parks

Surrey resident Gord Sholz said he was “stunned” when he saw volleyball players sharing water from the same jug during a game break at Newton Athletic Park this week.

Likewise, he couldn’t believe his eyes when “a full-blown soccer game, with referees and everything” was played at the park on Wednesday afternoon (March 18).

“Every time I go there it seems there’s a soccer game going on,” Sholz told the Now-Leader on Thursday. “They don’t seem to be concerned about it.”

The “it,” in this case, is the COVID-19 virus.

In response to the pandemic, the City of Surrey has closed recreation centres, pools, cultural centres and other facilities. Also, starting Monday (March 23), all city-run day camps will be shut down, among other measures posted to a “Coronavirus (COVID-19)” page at surrey.ca.

As well, the governing bodies of most sports, including soccer and baseball, have cancelled all games and practices at local fields.

On Friday (March 20), the Now-Leader received an email from a reader saying “some of the BC Lions are currently practicing on the field at their Whalley facility. It looks like there could be less than 10 of them; I can’t count exactly.

“My office in the Gateway Tower has a view of the field. They were passing a ball back and forth previously and are now playing a game of touch football, it looks like they’re huddling even.”

• RELATED STORY: COVID-19 precautions ‘not optional,’ B.C.’s Dr. Bonnie Henry warns.

Sholz emailed the Now-Leader to complain about organized soccer games still be played at Newton Athletic Park, although he’s not sure whether they were part of an association or just “a bunch of guys playing.”

“We’re not talking about five or six people here, it was a game,” Sholz said.

“They need to smarten up,” he added. “The only way this is going to work is for the government to come in and say this park is closed to everybody, otherwise they’ll never get rid of this virus. How are you going to get rid of it if you allow certain things to go on?”

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Sholz said someone in the city parks department told him that anyone using city fields are doing so on their own account.

“I called bylaws and they told me that they are not going to enforce it.”

• RELATED STORY: White Rock pier, promenade closure could be ‘plan B,’ mayor says.

The City of Surrey has not yet responded to the Now-Leader’s request for clarification on the matter.

During a media conference on Thursday, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum urged residents to continue to enjoy Surrey’s outdoor spaces, including parks, playgrounds and beaches.

“Get out in the fresh air, but do so by being mindful of social distancing,” said McCallum. “There are many outdoor spaces you can make use of while keeping social distancing intact.”

On social media, people are beginning to act as “social distancing police” by calling out people who gather in groups, apparently not concerned by spread of the virus.

Meantime, Delta is closing all playgrounds to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Friday, Mayor George Harvie ordered all playgrounds equipment in the city closed, including on school grounds and in Metro Vancouver-operated parks, to prevent close contact between children using these facilities. The closure also includes all skate parks and bike parks.

Parks in Delta remain otherwise open and the city encourages people to use them in support of good physical and mental health, provided social distancing of at least two metres between individuals is maintained at all times. People who are feeling unwell should not access parks.

Said Harvie in a news release: “These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures to keep our community safe. I thank the vast majority of residents who are staying home and practicing social distancing when they need to go out, but we need to do more to limit the spread of COVID-19 and this includes keeping our children and community safe by closing playground equipment, skate, and bike parks.”

with file from James Smith, North Delta Reporter

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