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Drinking alcohol will be allowed in some Burnaby parks this summer

A person holds a beer in a public park. (Getty Images) A person holds a beer in a public park. (Getty Images)

Visitors will be able to legally drink booze in some Burnaby parks starting June 23, as city councillors voted in favour of an alcohol in parks pilot project on Monday.

Other Metro Vancouver municipalities have run similar pilot projects--some becoming permanent programs--since the beginning of the pandemic, but this is the first outdoor alcohol trial to be implemented in Burnaby.

From June 23 until October 30, alcoholic beverages will be allowed at Confederation Park, Central Park, Keswick Park and Edmonds Park during their opening hours, which are from dawn to dusk.

“Recognizing the experience of many municipalities who have also run similar pilots in previous years, staff have kept the pilot program small and limited,” reads a staff report given to councillors.

The four parks were chosen based on existing amenities such as washrooms, seating areas and waste disposals, as well as being near public transportation, according to the report.

Drinking alcohol will not be allowed within ten metres of any playground, pool, skate park, parking lot or sports court, or on any artificial trail, pathway, natural parkland or forested area.

Signage will be placed in the designated parks with instructions on the boundaries and hours for drinking, and violations of the rules will be punished with a $200 fine, or $160 if paid within 15 days.

The pilot project was approved despite objections from Fraser Health officer Dr. Lindsay Bowthorpe.

She voiced her concerns about the new bylaw in a May 30 letter to Mayor Mike Hurley and city councillors, pointing out Health Canada’s updated alcohol consumption guidelines, which warn against drinking more than two standard drinks per week to avoid negative health outcomes.

“Alcohol use in parks can further normalize alcohol use in social settings, encourage underage drinking and lend legitimacy to spaces used by young people for drinking,” the letter reads.

“While social connection and community belonging are vital for health and wellbeing, it is important to recognize that alcohol may not support the social connection goals of everyone in the community. Alcohol in parks may create riskier environments for individuals in recovery from an alcohol use disorder and act as a barrier for families and groups who are uncomfortable being around those who drink alcohol.”

She recommended that if the city approve the policy anyway, to limit the number of sites and hours where drinking is allowed. She also recommended adding extra staff to monitor underage drinking and public intoxication, set alcohol consumption limits, and to continually evaluate the program.

At the end of the summer, Burnaby city staff will analyze the pilot and gather feedback to provide recommendations for next year. Top Stories

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