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Metro Vancouver approves pilot project to allow alcohol use in select regional parks


The regional district of Metro Vancouver is moving forward with a pilot project that will allow alcohol consumption in several of its parks.

The regional parks are located at Boundary Bay, Campbell Valley, Capilano River, Derby Reach and Iona Beach.

The pilot program is proposed to run from June 28 to Oct. 14, with alcohol consumption to be permitted at any time during park hours.

“We feel that some drinking is going on in the parks and now it’s becoming more prevalent so it just gives people who live in condos or townhouses who don’t have the backyard to be able to go out with their families and have a barbeque or lunch,” explains John McEwen, vice-chair with Metro Vancouver

The proposal is not without opposition, as Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health are urging the regional district not to go ahead with the project.

Dr. Emily Newhouse, medical health officer with Fraser Health, was one of the health officials who wrote a letter expressing concerns about the proposal.

"We've seen all of these changes in alcohol policy along with increased consumption so we know this is burdening our hospital system in an era where we have lots of pressures in terms of hospitalizations when we really don’t need this to be adding to the burden of our health-care system," says Newhouse.

She adds there is concern about underage drinking as well as alcohol related accidents and injuries.

“We suggested not placing these in locations with bodies of water; alcohol plays a significant role in drowning. We also mentioned keeping the hours limited and to have good enforcement because we know youth access parks,” she says.

McEwan says the priority is to work in conjunction with Fraser Health and be able to implement their suggestions in the months prior to the summer.

“We understand that in their perfect world there would be no drinking in the parks, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world.”

The health officials say the largest concern is the fact that alcohol consumption is going up across the province, and they worry that allowing public consumption of alcohol will only drive the number up.

Newhouse says provincial expenses related to alcohol are up “billions of dollars” and refers to the proposal as “a step backward.”

“We are concerned about this idea that alcohol needs to be there in social connection. Yes, social connection is critical but it doesn’t depend on alcohol,” she explains.

This comes as municipalities across Metro Vancouver have allowed alcohol consumptions at parks. Municipalities where consumption is already allowed include city-run parks in Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver, as well as some parks in Vancouver. Top Stories

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