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Sarnia giving dance, sports businesses free use of parks

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Cathy Dobson

Dance studio owner Tia Colborne was all smiles Monday after Sarnia council agreed to allow businesses like hers to use city parkland free-of-charge during Ontario’s gradual reopening.

“We’ve struggled through COVID but I have a little more hope every day,” said Colborne, who operates Great Lakes Dance Academy.

Colborne hasn’t offered indoor classes since mid-March and doesn’t expect to for weeks to come. Ontario entered Step 1 of it economic reopening June 11 and Step 2, which will allow fitness, dance studios and similar businesses to host outdoor classes for up to 25 people, is expected at the end of the month.

Colborne said she approached Coun. Bill Dennis to see if council would allow businesses to use city parkland.

When he proposed the idea Monday council voted 8-1 in favour, with Coun. Mike Stark the lone dissenter.

Businesses charge for their services and should pay a fee to use municipal parks, Stark reasoned.  “I am definitely opposed.”

But Dennis argued businesses need council support during this recovery period.

Fitness and athletic services can’t offer indoor classes until the province enters Step 3, “which seems very far away,” Dennis said. “Given that this will help the mental and physical health of our citizens, this is the right thing to do.”

Ontario won’t enter Step 3 until 70% to 80% of adults have one shot and 25% are fully vaccinated.

Colborne said she wants to get Great Lakes reopened for outdoor groups of up to 25 as soon as the province enters Stage 2.

A group of Sarnia dance studios had discussed the possibility of working together to rent an outdoor space from the city on a rotating basis, she said.

“The city just said no to that. They are not renting space right now and I understand that.”

Council’s support is “really wonderful,” Colborne added.  “For us it’s a big deal.”

Free use of municipal parks is approved until the end of the year as long as businesses reserve space and provide proof of liability insurance.




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