Drinking in some North Vancouver parks will be allowed this summer
VANCOUVER -- A big change is coming to several parks in the City of North Vancouver as early as next week, after a pilot program allowing people to drink alcohol in several public parks was approved by council.
This move makes North Vancouver one of the first cities in B.C. to allow this type of public alcohol consumption — but there are restrictions on where and when people will be able to crack a beer or pour a glass of wine outside.
“This is really about giving people the opportunity to use our public spaces and our public parks as an extension of their homes and backyards,” City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan told CTV News.
She says she is expecting people to gather responsibly and have a drink with dinner or a picnic, and doesn’t expect the change will lead to wild parties.
“My expectation is adults will behave as adults,” she said.
The bylaw indicates drinking will only be allowed in designated areas that are clearly marked with signage. The RCMP was consulted on the changes.
“We will support the laws that are made by the municipality,” said North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries. “We’ll also make sure we’re keeping the community safe be enforcing the rules that do that. That includes youth and alcohol and over consumption in public places.”
Liquor consumption in the chosen parks will be allowed between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week.
The parks chosen for the project include a portion of Waterfront Park, Victoria Park West, part of Mahon Park, Civic Plaza near city hall, Grand Boulevard, part of Ray Perrault Park, Kings Mill Walk Park, part of Shipbuilders Square and Cates Deck.
City staff looked at several city criteria when picking the parks, including proximity to washrooms, access to food and beverage businesses, proximity to multi-family housing, areas popular for picnicking and areas "busy with people which promotes pro-social behaviour."
Hours at some public washrooms may be extended during the pilot.
Council also approved a new street action plan as part of a separate motion Monday night that will see some traffic lanes closed to allow for things like expanded patios and parklets in hopes of helping businesses.
The alcohol motion was partially prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the city looking at ways to help residents that may be feeling social isolation or loneliness.
"Utilizing public places is central part of moving forward and getting people out of their residence, which will in turn support local businesses," the staff report says.
Buchanan, who plans to have a picnic with family and a glass of wine once the program is up and running, says she has few concerns and trusts most people will be responsible.
“This is something that’s seen all over the world,” she said.
North Vancouver resident Judy Fisher believes it's a good idea.
"It sounds very civilized. I think people are sometimes doing this in some of the parks anyway. Why not have the opportunity for people to socialize with a glass of wine or a beer over a dinner picnic in the park," she told CTV News.
Resident Kyler Storm agrees.
"It's very forward thinking of them," he said of the decision, which he watched over a live stream from his home Monday night.
"I'm thinking along the same lines council was, which is people might not necessarily grab their liquor and go to these places — but if they’re in the neighbourhood and taking take-out and they're offered the drink they would have had in the restaurant, I think more of them will now accept that drink, which will help the restaurants a lot financially."
There program could be up and running within the next week once the city receives about $7,500 worth of signage.
The changes are part of a pilot program, and is slated to end on Oct. 15, but the mayor says she expects it could become permanent if everything goes well.
“We may have to tweak it a little bit, but all in all I think this is going to be a really positive thing for our community,” Buchanan said.