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District of North Van endorses pilot project to allow booze in parks

Cates, Seylynn, Bridgman and Princess parks are on list of potentials where alcohol may be permitted

The District of North Vancouver will soon become the third municipality on the North Shore to pop the cork on allowing booze in public parks.

Council voted Monday to ask staff to look at bringing in a pilot project for the summer of 2021 that will allow for consumption of alcohol in select public spaces.

Details of which parks drinking will be permitted in haven’t been hammered out yet, but council members urged staff to move quickly and get a report back by July so the pilot project could go ahead this summer.

The District of North Vancouver is the last municipality to endorse a plan that allows for responsible imbibing of adult beverages in parks.

After starting a pilot project to allow liquor in some parks in 2020, City of North Vancouver council opted to make the rule change permanent last fall. The District of West Vancouver council also recently voted to approve a plan to allow tipples in Millennium Park on the Ambleside waterfront.

Coun. Jordan Back brought forward the motion to liberalize drinking in parks on Monday night, citing the increased use of local parks during the pandemic, especially among residents who don’t have private backyards.

Back pointed to the opportunity to enjoy a drink in the great outdoors as a responsible way for residents to get together. He added the plan is not meant to encourage drinking and driving, underage drinking or public drunkenness.

"I know there's broad support from the community," he said. "Allowing someone to have a beer or a glass of wine in public spaces is something that should be allowed in 2021."

Back suggested following the example of the City of North Vancouver in terms of restricting hours that alcohol consumption in parks would be allowed.

Overall, council members were supportive of the plan.

Coun. Lisa Muri pointed out the move will simply legalize what is already happening on the sly. "I think we're all aware that people drink in parks," she said. "They have been for decades and decades."

Mayor Mike Little said he’d done some sleuthing ahead of the vote, visiting city parks on Saturday night to check out the atmosphere under liberalized drinking regulations. “What I saw was people having picnics,” he said. “People sitting out and having a glass of wine.”

“I’m optimistic about what this can look like,” he said.

District staff said they’d considered several parks for the pilot project – including Cates, Bridgman, Seylynn and Princess parks. But council said they’d like to see more parks included in more areas of the district, including Cleveland Park in the western part of the district.

“We should be aiming at more than three or four parks,” said Coun. Jim Hanson.

Councillors also had cautions about the plan.

Parks use has shot up since the beginning of the pandemic, noted Hanson and “there are certain parks that have reached capacity.”

Coun. Betty Forbes said ideally the parks chosen for the pilot project would be near to apartment buildings and be easily accessible to rangers or bylaw officers, she added.

Several council members voiced the need to provide port-a-potties as well as recycling receptacles in locations where drinking of alcohol will be allowed. They also voiced concerns about the potential for the change in policy to create more garbage.

“We take a lot of the regional population” in local parks, said Muri. “I don’t think we’ll ever have enough garbage cans. On the weekend they were overflowing.”

Inter River Park has been a particular problem, said Little. “They bring a bunch of stuff in with them and they don’t bring it back out.”

Little and Muri also cited the need for authorities to keep an eye on things in parks where drinking is allowed.

Council voted unanimously to have staff go ahead and explore options for a pilot plan.