Parks board commissioner calls for extension of last summer’s experiment at 22 parks
A Vancouver Parks Board commissioner wants adults to be able to drink alcohol legally again this summer in some city parks.
Dave Demers has drafted a motion to be presented to Council on Monday evening (February 7) that calls for last year’s experiment at 22 parks to continue this year, with a view to allowing it to become permanent and year-round.
“In a nutshell, it went really well last year and it went exactly as I expected – people liked it,” he said, referring to a report from the staff of December 2021 which largely highlighted the success of the experiment.
The experiment, or pilot project, ran from July 12 to October 11 in designated sections of parks that included Stanley Park, David Lam Park, Kitsilano Beach Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, John Hendry Park in Trout Lake and New Brighton Park.
While most people interviewed by the park board said they supported the initiative, Demers noted there was room for improvement. His motion asks staff to heed “lessons learned” from last summer and address issues such as poor signage and a lack of recycling bins at consumption sites.
At the same time, Demers said he wants staff to look beyond an extension of the experience.
“How could we make something permanent – and what could it look like?” he said. “We’ll see what they say. But I anticipate that it will just be generalized to the whole system, without these limits imposed on certain parks.
As staff noted in their report, not everyone kept to designated boundaries at all 22 parks.
There was an increase in litter, including more empty liquor containers, and some neighbors complained of loud and obnoxious people creating a nuisance.
Overall, 86% of survey respondents supported the experience, while the level of support from people who work or live near one of the designated parks was mixed – roughly 50% split.
Data tracked by the Vancouver Police Department showed no increase in the number of alcohol-related calls, according to the staff report.
Vancouver Coastal Health also reported no significant difference in the average number of alcohol-related weekly visits to hospital emergency departments.
Demers said the intent of his efforts to allow adults to legally drink alcohol in parks was based on people being able to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine with friends or family during a picnic. It was never done to encourage more alcohol-fueled mayhem.
The top benefits cited by respondents were more opportunities to enjoy takeout, picnics and food with a drink and more opportunities to connect with friends and family.
Others without access to a yard or patio cited the benefit of drinking legally in a park on a nice day.
While 41% of respondents said allowing alcohol in parks made their last visit more enjoyable, 34% said the opposite.
When asked what services or features would have made their experience more enjoyable, the most common themes were:
• More garbage and recycling bins, and litter pick-up.
• Clarify watering area boundaries or improve locations relative to other park features.
• No more enforcement, monitoring or regulation.
The controversy over why one park was chosen over another was also an issue, as not everyone could have the same privileges at their local park, although it was a known fact that people consumed illegally drinking alcohol in parks for decades.
There was also a 300-signature petition against alcohol consumption near environmentally sensitive areas in Vanier, Kits Beach, Locarno and Volunteer Parks.
Demers isn’t asking for a time frame for staff to report on when or if an extension of last year’s initiative might go ahead. But he said he wanted the extension to happen as soon as possible, noting that the weather was nice on Monday.
“Whenever picnic season starts – I mean today is picnic day,” he said. “I don’t think we need to make it seasonal. Who are we to dictate when picnics can be held? »