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City to permit alcohol consumption in specific park spaces

The City is looking to launch the Alcohol in Designated Park Spaces program this summer.
1105 alcohol parks JF CC
Kingswood Park was one of the parks used for the City's 2021 alcohol in parks pilot program. Council has yet to determine which parks will allow alcohol consumption this summer. JACK FARRELL/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert city council approved a new park bylaw on May 2 which will allow alcohol consumption in designated picnic areas in certain public parks again this summer.

The City is planning to launch the Alcohol in Designated Park Spaces program in July. Areas where alcohol may be consumed will be accompanied with City signage identifying the area as part of the program.

Manda Wilde, interim manager for recreation facility development and partnerships, said in an interview that, "until that signage is in place, there is no alcohol consumption permitted in parks."

Wilde said the City hasn't decided which parks will feature designated areas for alcohol consumption, but the City is leaning towards the same parks as last year's pilot program.

This program was tested in Lions Park, Rotary Park, and Kingswood Park from September to October of last year.

After the 2021 pilot program, the City received minimal public feedback. Only 28 people completed the survey administered through the City's Cultivate the Conversation platform. Those who did fill out the survey presented a range of feelings, but 18 of the respondents stated they were in favour of the City permanently allowing alcohol consumption in public parks.

Survey respondents who were against the change stated concerns around how park spaces might see increased bottle litter or broken glass, however, a City report states that during the pilot program there was only one request to clean up bottles that were littered in a park. The report also states there were "no enforcement warnings, tickets, or other actions" last fall. 

Other feedback the City received from the public included concerns about "negative societal and individual impacts from alcohol," lack of policing, and perceived potential for drunk driving.

Coun. Sheena Hughes and Coun. Shelley Biermanski opposed the new bylaw throughout council's approval process. During the council meeting on April 19, during the second reading of the bylaw, Coun. Hughes said, "I still do not see the value in pushing it forward with such little feedback."

"The challenge I have is that we've been told ... that the intention is to only have three sites this summer, which is the same as the pilot, so the need to rush the pilot I just do not understand."

St. Albert resident Meagan Seamons, in an interview with The Gazette on May 4, said she supports the program being permanently in place, "I think it’s a positive thing to be able to allow it.

"We’re wasting resources trying to govern that when people are doing it anyway.”

Joshua Gehring, another local resident, said in an interview on May 4 that although he does not drink alcohol himself, he is "good with drinking in St. Albert parks so long as people act decent and [don't] litter." Gehring added that he wasn't aware of the pilot program that took place last fall, but still supports the bylaw change.

Other cities still testing similar programs

The City of Edmonton also piloted an alcohol consumption in parks program in 2021. Instead of making the program permanent, Edmonton expanded its pilot program for 2022. Alcohol consumption will be permitted in 18 parks throughout Edmonton between May and October. A map of which parks are included in Edmonton's expanded pilot program is available online. 

Morinville and Strathcona County also implemented pilot programs in 2021 but both municipalities have yet to announce plans for 2022.

Similar to Edmonton, the City of Calgary is expanding its pilot program this year by adding more picnic tables people can book to use. Sixty-five per cent of people who responded to Calgary's survey asking for feedback said they supported the program. 

Additional changes

Allowing alcohol consumption in designated park spaces is not the only change St. Albert city council made to the park bylaw on May 2, as the bylaw now includes provisions designed to protect the environment.

The new environmental protection regulations include rules that prohibit damaging trees, vegetation, and wildlife nests and dens in public parks. The rules also prohibit the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer in St. Albert's parks.

In a press release from May 4, the City said the previous bylaw "had not been reviewed in over 10 years." 

"There was a recognized need for a new and modernized parks bylaw to manage long-term sustainability and stewardship within our growing City," said the release.

"Additional information on the parks bylaw and the Alcohol in Designated Park Spaces program will be shared through various communication channels in the coming weeks," the release said.

The new bylaw has been posted to the City's website

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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