This bold sign near one of the picnic areas in Sunnybrook Park warmly welcomes visitors before sternly laying out the conditions of play. No cycling on hills? No Frisbee without a permit? No kites? Since when? With the busy summer season approaching, are by-law enforcement officers going to be ticketing kids for playing catch or riding their bikes in the park? Fortunately, it looks more like the sign makers are even less familiar with the parks by-law (PDF) than most people.
Of the eight listed prohibitions—complete with handy Toronto Municipal Code references for easy lookup—only four are accurate reflections of the Municipal Code: no campfires, unleashed dogs, tents, or signs without permits. One more is correctly characterized on the sign but points to the wrong section of the Code: the prohibition on large groups that the sign claims is contained in section 608-12. That section actually prohibits amplifiers and loud speakers (though it is mercifully silent on the topic of loud singers or loud shirts). That leaves three prohibitions which are backed up by the full legal force of nothing more than the paint on the sign, despite the fact that each one quotes an official-looking by-law.
Ball playing and frisbee by permit only. The cited section of the Parks by-law—608-04—reads, “While in a park, no person shall be in possession of or use a firearm, air gun, cross bow, bow and arrow, axe, paint guns or offensive weapon of any kind unless authorized by permit.” While bureaucrats and those familiar with the history of flying discs may protest that a Frisbee could be used as an offensive weapon, it’s a safe bet that the nice people at Wham-O would disagree on the maiming potential of their plastic toys.
In fact, the words “Frisbee” and its non-trademarked cousin “flying disc” don’t appear anywhere in chapter 608. The only time “ball” appears is in section 608-18, where it specifically refers to golfing. No kids, you don’t need a permit to throw a Frisbee or play catch with your friends in the park.
This rule is probably referring to the sports fields at the top of the park, about a kilometre away. But the wording is definitely too broad, especially since the sign is beside a picnic area where people are likely to be playing ball or Frisbee.
Cyclists must dismount on hills. The actual text in section 608-24 reads, “No person shall enter, walk, or play upon a designated area for tennis in a park, except in accordance with the posted rules and regulations.” So unless those hills are designated areas for tennis, there’s no reason why you can’t ride your bike on them. The section of the by-law that deals with cycling is 608-29, and it doesn’t say anything about dismounting on hills.
Kites or model aircraft prohibited. While section 608-19 does prohibit powered models, it says nothing about kites. A separate section of the by-law, 608.25, sets out some sane rules for flying them but doesn’t prohibit them altogether.
In all, the sign gets half of the references or rules themselves wrong. Remember when the only signs in Toronto parks said “Have a nice day” or “Please walk on the grass”? While these two rules were never written into the Municipal Code, they were common sense reminders that most people had no trouble following.
Photos by Val Dodge.