For many Canadians, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a new appreciation for the natural bounty at their doorsteps, and Mississauga residents are no exception. Although they live in the country’s sixth largest city, they can enjoy nature with 500 parks and 500 kilometres of trails, including a 22-kilometre waterfront trail.
Bonnie Crombie, who has been Mississauga’s mayor since 2014, likes running along the waterfront and cycling to conservation areas with her daughter. She believes the city’s easy access to outdoor recreation has played a key role in helping Mississauga residents cope with the crisis.
“People are now eager to travel again, but the idea is to stay local and explore your neighbourhood and region before venturing further afield,” she says. “We would like to encourage everyone to stay active but be safe. We also have a way of celebrating each other and making visitors feel welcome.”
Community connections are a hallmark of Mississauga, believes Toni Frankfurter, chair of the board of directors at Tourism Mississauga and general manager of a local hotel in the Port Credit neighbourhood. “Physical distancing has been stressful, especially where people know all their neighbours and used to greet each other with hugs,” she says, adding that while embraces are now limited to family bubbles, “everybody still stops to say hello and enquire about their well-being– we like sharing positive vibes.”
Mayor of Mississauga
For Ms. Frankfurter, much of Mississauga’s charm stems from a combination of big-city sophistication and home-town friendliness – and the city’s diversity makes this mix even more attractive.
Mayor Crombie also values a demographic made up of people from all corners of the globe. “With so many cultures, there are over 150 countries represented in our culinary scene,” she says. “And we have over 1,200 restaurants.”
The city has implemented a range of measures for supporting local businesses through the pandemic; for example, with e-commerce solutions and deferral of certain taxes and levies – it has also approved temporary patio expansions and waived several fees. “This has been very, very popular,” says Mayor Crombie. “We are strongly encouraging people to support our businesses and entrepreneurs.”
On a recent evening stroll along the waterfront, Ms. Frankfurter observed patios being lively and busy. “People want to be out and about, especially in the summer,” she says. “At the same time, local residents and businesses are doing everything they can to keep everyone safe.”
As Mississauga locals welcome the reopening of local businesses and attractions, Mayor Crombie says their compliance with health authorities’ recommendations has helped to make this possible. “Since the onset of the pandemic, residents have stepped up in a big way,” she says. “They are respectful; they follow guidelines; they want us to get through this.”
For example, on the day masks became mandatory in enclosed public spaces, a measure that is implemented across the Greater Toronto Area, Mayor Crombie went to the Square One Shopping Centre. “I stood at the entrance and watched as people came in with their masks,” she says. “I was very impressed by the level of compliance.”
Square One is a considerable draw for shoppers, and Mayor Crombie believes the emphasis on safety can help to reassure visitors as well as enable businesses to stay open.
“Hospitality-related industries – and about 2,500 businesses depending on tourism – provide over 20,000 jobs and contribute almost $2-billion to the GDP,” says Mayor Crombie. “Welcoming visitors is important for our economic recovery.”
There is plenty to see and do for all ages, says Ms. Crombie, whose favourite green spaces include the Lakefront Promenade, Lake Aquitaine Park and the Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens.
Water sports enthusiasts can find opportunities for fishing, paddleboarding, canoeing and other recreational activities; and public and private marinas welcome boaters, she says. “We also have seven outdoor pools, 25 splash pads and the popular fountain at Celebration Square.”
Ms. Frankfurter adds that waterfront parks and conservation areas stretch along the lakeshore as well as the scenic Credit River. While the trails provide residents with opportunities for short outings, they can also be used for longer trips; for example, for cycling from Toronto via Mississauga to Niagara, with stops along the way for sampling local attractions.
Ms. Frankfurter is sure the warm welcome in Mississauga will make a visit to the city stand out. “It’s a destination that is so close and accessible for so many people and offers all those great activities to recharge our batteries.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.