Burnaby council votes to allow alcohol use in nearly all parks year-round

Hands holding a can of beer in a Vancouver park. Lasia Kretzel / Global News

Burnaby city council has voted in favour of updating its bylaws to allow the responsible consumption of alcohol in virtually all city parks year-round.

The move comes after what city staff have called a successful pilot project last summer in four major parks.

Between June and October, alcohol consumption was permitted in Confederation Park, Central Park, Kswick Park and Edmonds Park.

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver approves alcohol consumption in six regional parks'
Metro Vancouver approves alcohol consumption in six regional parks

In a report prepared for Monday night’s council meeting, staff said there was “no noticeable increase in call volume or complaints” to the RCMP or bylaw officers, nor was there a noticeable increase in trash during the trial.

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What’s more, just 45 people filled out a survey asking for public feedback on the initiative.

“The general lack of response, combined with the lack of complaints or issues identified by staff is consistent with the experience many other municipalities have noted during similar pilot programs and leads staff to believe that the responsible consumption of alcohol in City parks is not a significant issue,” the report states.

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“In general, parkgoers followed the restrictions and acted responsibly in alignment with the intent of this program.”

Click to play video: 'New program for alcohol in Vancouver parks approved'
New program for alcohol in Vancouver parks approved

In recommending the expansion, staff noted that parks are becoming an important “third space” for residents living in increasingly dense communities, and public feedback asking for more options within walking distance.

City staff, however, noted that Fraser Health continues to have concerns with both the pilot project and the prospect of an expansion.

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Staff recommended councillors approve a year-round expansion of the changes to all city parks, which they say would be the easiest option for residents to understand and for the city to administer and enforce.

Under the new rules, booze will be banned in parks between dusk and dawn, in playgrounds, water features, skate bowls, sports courts and artificial turf surfaces.

Alcohol will also be banned in parks next to schools, in parking lots, and in all indoor spaces.

People will be able to drink in playing fields, but not if they are being used for sports or activities.

Two city councillors, Sav Dhaliwal and Richard T. Lee, did vote against the new measures.

“Alcohol, let’s start with this: it’s a substance. With substance use, I think we need to be more concerned about what local governments do or what any order of government does to allow substance [use] in public spaces,” said councillor Dhaliwal.

“I’m kind of lost, in a way, to see why government, any order of government, would be encouraging substance use of any kind. We know people like Fraser Health have come against this.”

Dhaliwal also argued the matter is not a priority for the public, noting the survey on last summer’s pilot program only received 45 responses.

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Speaking in favour of the new measures, councillor Daniel Tetrault said he had personally heard positive feedback from members of the public about the pilot program.

“Based on the survey, I think a number of people did not take the time to respond because 45 [responses] does not reflect the number of people who’ve contacted me to express positive feedback of this initiative,” he said.

“These are mainly people who… live in dense areas and don’t have a backyard, don’t have that green space near them to come together. So they really enjoy going to Confederation Park and having that option to drink responsibly.”

The new bylaws will come into effect June 24th, 2024.

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