After some back and forth Kelowna council has approved a pilot project allowing the drinking of alcohol in some city parks.
Potential social issues, garbage, recycling, glass, and the exclusion of long weekends were some of the concerns for councillors.
While supportive of the pilot, Coun. Loyal Wooldridge noted that it should be considered that alcohol is a substance like all others, that intoxicates people.
“I pulled statistics about alcohol and the cost to the province in 2014. The province generated $1.6 billion in tax revenue from alcohol sales. It cost the province $1.9 billion to manage it when it comes to policing, community disruption and violence.”
The pilot will allow drinking in Waterfront, Kinsmen and Boyce Gyro Parks between noon and 9 p.m. and will run from July 4 to October 6. It originally excluded Canada Day, B.C. Day and Labour Day long weekends.
“The backbone of our economy is tourism,” said Coun. Gord Lovegrove. ” I have significant concerns this going to blow up in our face if we say you can’t have it on long weekends.”
Council did eventually vote to include those days in the pilot. Additional garbage in parks was a concern for Coun. Maxine DeHart, who stated there need to be more bins in the area.
Coun. Wooldridge also asked staff about implementing a waste diversion recycling program as part of the pilot. Council heard the issue has been addressed previously but was found to be inconsistent.
Wooldridge tried to put forth a motion to include recycling as part of the pilot, however, Mayor Tom Dyas said he would not consider it at this time.
Dyas said he wanted to check with staff first to see what programs might already be in place.
People bringing glass bottles containing alcohol into the parks was also a concern for councillors. The pilot spells out that any alcohol must be contained in, or poured into, a non-glass container before being taken into the parks.
Alcohol consumption is banned within 15 metres of any playground, play equipment, children’s play areas, sports courts and fields, parking lots, bodies of water, and piers and boardwalks without railings.
Signage at the three pilot parks will indicate where alcohol can be consumed. Additional bylaw officers and maintenance staff will patrol the parks during the pilot.
No additional RCMP resources are being added, however, officers will continue regular downtown and beach patrols.
Since 2020, Penticton has allowed outdoor liquor consumption in select parks and beaches along the Okanagan and Skaha waterfronts.
After three successful years, the pilot project now appears bound for permanent status, meaning council will no longer have to pass a new bylaw every year for alcohol to be permitted in select areas.