Edmonton’s expanded pilot program, which will see alcohol consumption allowed at dozens of picnic sites in the city, starts this Sunday.
Beginning on May 1, adults will be allowed to consume alcohol between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. at 124 picnic sites in 18 Edmonton parks. The expanded pilot program will run until Oct. 10, 2022. (See a list of the designated parks below).
This is the second year for the program. Last year, the designated sites were largely concentrated in the river valley. This year, the goal was to expand to parks beyond the river valley.
Public consumption of alcohol in city parks was going to be scrapped this year. In January, Edmonton city councillors initially voted to put the program on hold. However, that decision was reversed in late February, with councillors making the decision to expand the program.
The 2021 pilot project started in May and ran until last October, during which 47 picnic sites were designated for alcohol use in seven parks throughout the Edmonton river valley.
The city conducted an online survey after the pilot program wrapped up, which found 53 per cent of the 3,868 respondents rated their experience as very or somewhat positive. The survey found 2,526 people who responded to the survey — about 65 per cent — said they participated in the pilot.
Among those who were aware of pilot, 50 per cent said they would like to see the program expanded.
Fifty-four per cent of those who did the survey said the pilot program did not impact their park visitation.
A vast majority — 79 per cent — of people said they did not encounter disorderly behaviour while partaking in the pilot program.
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A city report showed that between May 31 and Aug.31, 2021, peace officers conducted 396 proactive inspections of designated and non-designated picnic sites specific to the pilot program. The city said 245 warnings and zero tickets were issued in designated sites.
Public drinking is only allowed at parks and sites marked by signage. Consumption is limited only to designated picnic sites, people are not allowed to walk around the park with their alcoholic drinks.
Picnic sites can be booked online ahead of time, and are also available on a first-come, first-served basis. Signs will be installed this year directing people to the tables that are first-come, first-served.