WINNIPEG -- The province’s current public health orders restricting gatherings on private property seem to have people heading to their favourite park to gather with friends and family they otherwise couldn’t see.

Under the current measures, you can’t have people over or visit at someone else’s house, inside or outside, with an exception for people who live alone. Restaurants and patios were also forced to close Sunday.

The orders currently limit group gatherings in public places to a maximum of five people.

Dave Domke, the City of Winnipeg’s manager of parks and open space, said parks are seeing increased usage.

“We’ve seen definitely an uptick since that decision was made,” Domke said Monday during an update to the city’s standing policy committee on protection, community and parks. “Taking people out of their own backyards, which actually means that they’re going to go and visit still but they’re going to go in parks.”

A recent city report indicated visits to city parks during the pandemic have increased by between 60 and 90 per cent, depending on the park.

La Barriere Park, south of the Perimeter Highway located along the La Salle River, saw a 90 per cent jump.

Some councillors wanted to know what the city’s doing to deal with the increased usage.

Domke told the committee the city’s been able to keep up with trash collection and washroom cleaning.

“Some of the garbage let’s say at the end of the weekend might be overflowing some of the areas,” he said. “There’s a lot of usage right now.”

“But we’ve been able to really respond to that quite well over time.”

The city said additional staff have been assigned to ensure the daily cleaning of standalone park washrooms. Those with common areas where people could gather before entering remain closed until further notice, a city spokesperson said.

The city also said an additional trash pickup has been scheduled for Monday mornings in problem areas.

Domke said there are about 20 different seasonal washrooms under the control of the parks and open spaces division that typically open around May long weekend until October.

Domke said last spring the city started increasing the frequency of cleaning at washrooms with higher usage.

Washrooms at Kings Park and La Barriere Park are already being cleaned on weekends as well, Domke told the committee.

“That’s specifically a result of COVID,” said Domke. “Just because of COVID I think we’d all agree it’s important to get a daily cleaning of a washroom at a minimum.”

The parks committee has requested the public service report back in 90 days on the types of washrooms, location and cost of daily cleaning in parks operated by the City of Winnipeg.