Royal Canadian Mead has a solution for avoiding crowded Toronto parks this weekend

It’s the August long weekend, which means that thousands of Torontonians will likely be flocking to the city’s more than 1,500 parks to enjoy the warm weather.

It’s not uncommon for these parks to be overrun by people, a nightmare scenario in the midst of a global pandemic that could come roaring back if a few thousand frisbee-throwing goofballs fail to follow health and safety guidelines.

A few circles painted on the grass might not be enough to prevent a repeat of what happened at Trinity Bellwoods in May, so Toronto brewing company Royal Canadian Mead is helping people avoid these human petri dishes with a new website called “Is the Park Busy.”

Inspired by other single purpose websites like and, is a no-frills site that provides an at-a-glance overview of 16 of Toronto’s most popular parks—including the infamous Trinity Bellwoods Park, along with Christie Pits and High Park.

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Using real-time Google Maps data, each park on the site is graded with a simple “Yes,” “No” or “Kinda,” allowing would-be users to plan accordingly.

The initiative is part of Royal Canadian Mead’s “Summer Responsibly” campaign, hurriedly assembled when it became clear that COVID meant abandoning what president Matt Gibson describes as a “cans in hands” marketing approach—a heavy presence at summer events like beer festivals and rib-fests.

“We sat down with [agency partner BBDO Toronto] and said the new vibe now is social distancing and behaving responsibly, so how do we have fun with that idea while still being respectful of the fact that people are getting sick?” says Gibson. “We don’t want to diminish that.

“[The idea is] you can still have fun and hang out, just do it responsibly and be respectful of social distancing. We really loved the idea of a single-use website that tells you if the park is busy.”

The campaign was created to support the launch of “Retired Life,” a new limited-edition product being sold exclusively through select Ontario licensees and online delivery services including Runner and BrewerEats. It’s joins a portfolio of brands built around what Gibson describes as a “leisure life” platform, including “All Day Croquet” and “Feels Like Friday.”

The site has been averaging 1,000 users a day since debuting earlier this week, with minimal paid social advertising and some media outreach. The hope is that it will continue to grow organically, says Gibson.

“We wanted to walk the line of encouraging the fun summer everyone wants, with the safe summer we certainly need,” says Alexandra Jo Heller, strategic planner at BBDO. “The creative team on this work is incredibly talented, and they have a certain kind of sardonic wink to their work that really fits the mood.

“We’re proud of our collaboration and especially when we create something of real utility—that’s the best kind of advertising there is.”

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash


Chris Powell