VANCOUVER -- Update: The bylaw permitting drinking in select New Westminster parks was implemented on May 17, 2021.

Residents and visitors of New Westminster will soon be able to crack a cold beer or drink a glass of wine in certain parks after city council voted in favour of a new project Monday.

The motion directing staff to draft a bylaw allowing drinking in six parks was brought forward by Coun. Patrick Johnstone and passed during a council meeting.

"New Westminster is an urban city. There are a lot of people who live in multi-family housing and don't really have a lot of outdoor space available to them. So public spaces are really important in New Westminster," Johnstone told CTV News Vancouver.

"We're not going to have festivals this year like we usually do, we're not going to have our normal things that improve the quality of life of people living in a dense urban area so I think it's just nice that people can use their outdoor spaces in better ways."

Johnstone explained staff might make some tweaks when they draft the bylaw, which will need to be presented to council again.

However, the proposed locations included in his motion are:

  • Pier Park: On the grass picnic field and the grass knoll beside it
  • Moody Park: On the mixed-use grass fields north of the multi-use path (not on the paved areas or sports courts)
  • Hume Park: Upper Hume Park south of the off-leash dog and forested areas
  • Sapperton Park: Open field portion of the park facing East Columbia Street
  • Port Royal Park: By the crescent field and the picnic shelters, north of the restrooms
  • Grimston Park: At the open field and picnic area north of the wading pool

"We need to be very cognizant that not all people want to be around alcohol and we need to ensure that people who don't want to be around alcohol still have access to park space," he said.

Johnstone doesn't have a timeline for when the bylaw will brought back to council, but says he hopes the new rules will be in place for the summer. In the fall, staff will present feedback to council so changes can be made before next season.

"The motion was to draft a bylaw. So I don't want people to be out there popping their outdoor corks just yet," Johnstone said.

In the motion, it was suggested drinking only be permitted in those areas from 11 a.m. to dusk.

North Vancouver made its program permanent in October after being the first jurisdiction outside Quebec to test it out. The project was suggested in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving residents more options to socialize safely outdoors. 

During the pilot, that city did incur about $80,000 in extra garbage and recycling collection expenses, although park use was up generally over the summer months, staff said last fall.

Port Coquitlam also made its pilot permanent in February after testing out the project in seven of its parks.