Drinking in parks: Decision on Vancouver’s pilot program coming Monday

VANCOUVER —
The Vancouver Park Board will vote Monday on whether to introduce a pilot program that would allow drinking in some local parks as early as this month.

Park board staff have been looking into idea for several years, but have been pressured to make it a priority in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, B.C. health officials have encouraged the public to keep their small social gatherings outdoors in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

Park board staff will present their plan for a pilot program Monday night.

The proposal designates specific areas within 10 parks where adults would be permitted to consume their own liquor:

  • Fraser River
  • John Hendry (Trout Lake)
  • Harbour Green
  • Locarno Beach
  • Memorial South
  • New Brighton
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Quilchena
  • Stanley Vanderbilt

The green spaces were picked for their accessibility, amenities and location.

Staff tried to avoid selecting spots with bathing beaches, playgrounds and schools wherever possible.

If approved, drinking would be allowed in specific areas in those parks from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The project could kick off as early as mid-July and run until Thanksgiving weekend.

During the trial, the park board will collect feedback from park rangers, residents and businesses.

Staff will then present a feasibility study which will decide whether or not to allow drinking permanently.

However, the project does face some additional some red tape.

Alcohol is governed by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Act.

It gives municipalities and regional districts the power to make their decisions about alcohol, but the Vancouver Park Board is neither of those.

It’s now working with the provincial government to amend the act so it can move forward with its decision.

The proposal does not have an exact dollar figure for how much the program will cost, but it is expected to increase operating costs.

Additional park ranger patrols, cleaning, maintenance, signage and education will be needed to run the program.

Those costs will be taken out of the existing park board budget, which will lead to cuts in other areas.

The park board meets Monday at 6:30 p.m.   

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