Sidney closed all municipal playgrounds including Tulista Park Friday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Saanich Peninsula residents try to keep their faith, social distance and solidarity as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Elsewhere in Greater Victoria, some people appear indifferent around social distancing

For Pastor Erik Trovall of Sidney’s Peace Lutheran Church, Sunday was a tough day. His church, like so many public gathering spots across the Saanich Peninsula, was closed as residents engaged in social distancing, some more, some less, to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.

“I missed it horribly, actually,” said Trovall, when asked about not being able deliver a sermon. But that did not necessarily stop him from going to church Sunday morning for parts of it to make sure everybody was aware that the church was closed. Trovall then returned home, where he stayed in touch with church members remotely.

“And actually, I got a fair amount of studying and reading done,” he said. “And being a clergyman, I regularly pray for parishioners, for the world, so we can all get through this safe and sound.”

Trovall said many of the church’s parishioners are doing well under the circumstances.

“Many of them have observing the government’s recommendations about staying home,” he said.

At the same time, the church community has also found ways to stay in touch. When asked whether his church might end up delivering services online as churches have started to do, Trovall said the idea has been a subject of discussion.

“But at this point, we don’t have plan for that yet,” he said. This said, Trovall said he has been regularly sending out various announcements as well as prayer and devotional material by email.

“I know that reaches everybody,” he said. “I have had responses from people in regards to that. Of course, it is not the same as gathering together, but at least we can keep our faith alive through our words.”

RELATED: POLL: How much of an impact is the COVID-19 outbreak having on your daily life?

Trovall said he has been impressed by the way people have been following recommendations regarding social distancing. “I am noticing that people are staying home and finding time to spend time at home,” he said. “From my small perspective, I have been quite impressed.”

Sidney’s waterfront along Lochside Drive, just down the road from Trovall’s church, was also noticeably less busy on Sunday as well as on Saturday, a phenomenon likely owed to the fact that the Town of Sidney Friday had closed all municipal playgrounds, including the popular playground at Tulista Park just off Lochside Drive near the waterfront until further notice because of COVID-19. A regional destination, Tulista Park is generally bustling on weekends, as people of all ages enjoy the playground, the nearby ArtSea Gallery, and walkway along the ocean. By way of background, Sidney’s closure also affected all basketball, tennis, and beach volleyball courts, as well as Sidney’s skate park.

Playgrounds also remain closed in Central Saanich and North Saanich and a brief but incomplete survey of local playgrounds confirmed that residents were following those restrictions.

RELATED: UPDATED: Playgrounds across the South Island close as COVID-19 spreads

This said, unconfirmed social media reports showed crowded playgrounds despite closures elsewhere in Greater Victoria, including Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay, on Saturday, an appearance likely owed to the brilliant weather on Saturday. Beaches along Victoria’s Dalles Road, as well as in Saanich and Oak Bay also drew crowds. Blue skies and mild temperatures also meant that the path around Victoria International Airport was busy with walkers, runners and cyclists. While these activities allow plenty of room for social distancing, a handful of cyclists could be seen congregating along the path itself or North Saanich’s Patricia Bay Park.

These and other reports from other parts of the province, including Greater Vancouver, have prompted broadly echoed appeals from public figures such politicians and journalists concerned about the public’s apparent indifference, even defiance of public health rules in the face of COVID-19. This said, the situation appeared different on Sunday, with fewer people seen on local streets than on Saturday, a phenomenon likely owed to grey skies across the region.

RELATED: Partying Victoria-area youth told police they are ‘immune’ to COVID-19

And if Peninsula residents are taking social distancing more and seriously in the face of public regulations, they are far from having lost their sense of solidarity.

When Patricia Bergeron of North Saanich jogged along Sidney’s waterfront Sunday morning, she came across a table bearing various essentials, including a few rolls toilet paper, for anyone to take. It is not clear, who had set up the table located on 3rd Street between Mt. Baker Avenue and Henry Avenue. But for Bergeron, it is a positive sign.

“In this time of social distancing and isolation and financial hardships, it’s nice to know that someone out there cares for the well-being of their fellow man,” she said.


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This was the scene in North Saanich Saturday afternoon outside North Saanich’s Jubilee Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Cyclists in North Saanich Saturday afternoon near the path along Victoria International Airport. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

An unknown donor has set up this table on 3rd Street between Mt. Baker Avenue and Henry Avenue (Patricia Bergeron/Submitted).

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