A pilot project approved by city council to allow alcohol consumption at some Edmonton parks began Friday.
The pilot program will allow public alcohol consumption in select river valley parks from May 28 to Oct. 11, 2021.
There are 47 picnic sites throughout seven river valley parks where alcohol consumption will be allowed — which is about 25 per cent of total picnic sites in the parks. The parks are Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Whitemud, William Hawrelak, Government House, Victoria, Gold Bar and Rundle.
“We’ve been talking about responsible alcohol consumption in parks for a very long time, but with COVID(-19), it seemed even more relative now.
“We’re asking folks to stay close to home but still get out and explore their city,” said Ward 3 Councillor Jon Dziadyk.
The city said people can either book a spot or walk up to one of the first come, first served sites. Alcohol consumption will be allowed from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at picnic sites marked with signage.
At Hawrelak Park there are three picnic locations that will allow drinking alcohol, with one of the three locations available for bookings.
“The sites that have been chosen have been selected carefully for appropriateness in terms of closeness to washrooms and waste receptacles and away for playgrounds,” Dziadyk said.
“We’re going to be allowing this activity in a place that’s most responsible for it to happen and then we’ll try to clamp down harder on where it’s been happening elsewhere.”
Dziadyk said bylaw officers will be at the parks making sure that people are consuming alcohol at the designated areas.
In early May, Edmonton city councillors voted in favour of the pilot program. Councillors Tim Cartmell, Tony Caterina and Bev Esslinger voted against the idea.
The pilot comes after the city conducted an online survey earlier this year, which showed 71 per cent of the more than 15,000 respondents strongly or somewhat supported the idea.
The reasons for supporting the idea included 85 per cent who said it completes an enjoyable food experience, 82 per cent said it regulates an activity that’s already happening and 79 per cent said it increases the opportunity for social interaction with family and friends.
Opposition to the idea was largely focused on public safety, with the top reasons for opposition being an increase in disorderly behaviour and the potential for drinking and driving.
Once the pilot wraps up, administration will analyze data, including usage and complaints. Dziadyk is confident the pilot project will be a success, but he is prepared to consider changes or cancellation.
“If anything gets out of hand… that would be a problem and then that would provide an opportunity to adjust the pilot project or even suspend it,” he said.
A report on the findings will be presented to city council at the end of 2021 for future consideration.