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Time to get busy outside

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After more than a month under a stay-at-home order, Quinte-area residents took full advantage of last week’s announcement some outdoor recreational facilities would be allowed re-open Saturday.

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Many were almost in panic mode, thinking they would be locked away at home for the Victoria Day weekend — otherwise known as the unofficial start to summer — bust wasted little time getting busy when Saturday arrived.

Thursday, the Ford government announced golf courses and tennis courts were amongst facilities allowed to open Saturday ahead of the June 2, schedule.

Instead empty streets and quiet playgrounds, the familiar thud of tennis balls hitting rackets could be heard reverberating throughout an east-end Belleville neighbourhood. The unmistakable yell of ‘fore’ could be heard on local golf courses and people lined up to finally buy locally produced food and textiles at the Wellington Farmers’ Market. Parks continued to be popular with kids and splash pads were added to the list of open venues as well.

While the lockdown remains in effect until at least June 2, people were breathing a collective sigh of relief, finally being allowed to participate in some outdoor activities.

Members of the Quinte Tennis Club on the corner of Queen Street and Dufferin Avenue in Belleville wasted little time swinging into action. Volunteers and staff had the facility’s four courts ready for play and like they’ve done for more than 70 years now, first thing Saturday morning the tennis season was open and play had resumed.

The club’s president and vice-president, the husband-and-wife team of Gilles and Dawn Chevrier were all smiles when they arrived mid-morning to see all four courts in action.

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“We’re thrilled it’s finally here and even though we think it could have happened sooner — I don’t think there is any problem distancing on a tennis court — we’re glad that people can finally get out and get some exercise while doing something they love,” Gilles Chevrier said. “People need to be outside and active and with more and more people getting vaccinated I think allowing facilities like this to open was the right thing to do.”

The vice-president said the pandemic has benefitted the club in terms of its membership.

“We saw it last year when we had something like 40 or 50 new members join the club,” Dawn Chevrier explained. “We were basically in the same situation and people were searching for healthy things to do, so they took up tennis. It looks like most of them are back again this year, so that’s great for the club.”

New owners at Nine Golf — the former Bayview Golf Centre — on Old Highway 2 in Quinte West were finally allowed to greet patrons.

Director of golf, Brandon McLean said opening weekend for the facility has been an amazing experience.

“People are so happy to be able to come out and play some golf and get some exercise,” he said. “You can tell everyone is tired of being cooped up and they just want to be outdoors and doing things like this in a safe environment.”

Anne Marie Barrett made the short trip over to Nine from Ameliasburgh with daughters Teighlor and Brynne. She said the family was thrilled to be outside.

“We like to do a lot of family activities like skiing and golfing, so this has been pretty hard on everyone,” she said. “We are thrilled to finally be able to do something like this – it feels like a long time.”

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Thursday’s announcement didn’t clear the way for the Wellington Farmers’ Market to open — it was scheduled to open anyway — but the joy of the hundreds of visitors and vendors alike was evident.

Long before the 9 a.m. opening, masked visitors began to line up in the United Church parking lot with the line snaking down the Main Street sidewalk. People are happy – the opening is more than a month ahead of last year.

Greeter Robin Baranyai explained the does and don’ts of traffic patterns before offering hand sanitizer to each of the arriving shoppers.

Debbie Denard has been a vendor for five or six years at the markets. As she awaited the first of the customers to circle around to the east side of the church parking lot, she said she was thrilled to finally be open.

“I am so happy to be here this morning, people need human contact and we’ve waited for a long time for this,” she said. “If everyone does what they are supposed to, this is a safe (environment) and can be done safely. It’s important for a lot of the people to have a place like this to show and sell their products.”

Market manager Naz Karsan agreed with Denard, and said shopping at the market was almost secondary to people getting outside.

“I’ve heard so many positive things about people being able to reconnect with other people in the community and being able to do that in a safe manner,” he said. “We learned a lot last summer and Saturday was a great opening day for all of us. I think its safe to say that everyone is looking forward to be able to do this every Saturday for the rest of the season. People need each other and I think we saw that here.”

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