Delta residents will be able to legally enjoy a beer at certain city parks this summer.
On Monday, Delta council unanimously endorsed a motion by Coun. Dylan Kruger directing staff to report back with a plan to implement a pilot project allowing the responsible consumption of alcohol in select local parks.
“This is another opportunity for council to continue to support our citizens through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kruger told council. “The end of the pandemic is in sight, but we’re still in for another summer of potential COVID restrictions. (…) People are tired, there are additional mental health issues and stresses right now, and I think we need additional opportunities for people to get out and and explore their communities in our local parks this summer with family.”
Kruger said the motion was a matter of equity, as many residents — himself included — do not have access to a backyard or large indoor space, amplifying the impact of the pandemic.
“It’s an opportunity to treat responsible adults like responsible adults. Irresponsible behaviour will always be looked down upon, but I believe based on models in other suburban communities in Metro Vancouver this will be a great success with a high level of support, and just another opportunity for people to come out and enjoy the outdoors here at home in Delta.”
Kruger’s motion was based on the success of a pilot program in Port Coquitlam last summer that allowed responsible drinking in seven city parks.
Last month, based on strong approval from a public survey, Port Coquitlam city council agreed to permanently permit drinking in those seven parks and to conduct a second pilot program at three others this summer.
“Last year’s pilot was an unquestionable success — almost nine out of 10 people surveyed approved of the program and asked us to continue or expand it to more parks,” Mayor Brad West said in press release Feb. 17.
“People told us they were happy to be able to responsibly and safely enjoy a drink with family and friends, and to be treated like adults, as we see in many countries around the world. We saw our parks come alive last summer as people of all ages were able to safely use our parks to feel a sense of community and less isolation.”
According to a press release, about 86 per cent of the 573 survey respondents had a “good” experience during the pilot and wanted it to continue. Almost 90 per cent of those surveyed were Port Coquitlam residents and almost two-thirds were age 40 or up.
Positive feedback about the program included that it fostered a sense of community, allowed people to gather and play games in a socially-distanced safe way and reduced feelings of isolation. Feedback also included requests to expand the program to other parks.
Those with concerns about the program generally commented that parks are not an appropriate place for drinking, and cited the potential for litter, noise, excessive consumption and inappropriate behaviour.
During the pilot, PoCo bylaw staff conducted proactive patrols and found that people were generally gathering safely and enjoying the parks with family and friends, with no reports of “undesirable behaviour” or bylaw breaches.
Further, RCMP advised the city they had no concerns arising from the pilot.
The city’s parks department did note more garbage and recycling in the seven pilot sites, but the release states this was the case in all Port Coquitlam parks, which experienced notably increased use last year.
A memo by Delta city staff noted three criteria Port Coquitlam used to identify which parks to include in the initial pilot program: that the locations have picnic tables and picnic shelters, that they have washroom facilities and that they have a service level of weekly and bi-weekly visual inspections.
The memo identified four locations staff felt would be appropriate for the pilot: North Delta Community Park, Sunstone Park, Memorial Park, and Diefenbaker Park.
As part of Kruger’s motion, council also directed staff write a letter to Metro Vancouver asking to include Delta’s two regional parks (Deas Island and Boundary Bay) in the pilot, with designated opening and closing times.