St. Albert park patrons may soon be able to kick back with a beer or a glass of wine.
Mayor Cathy Heron made a notice of motion for St. Albert to join the growing ranks of municipalities testing whether liquor is appropriate to allow in public parks at the July 5 council meeting.
“I'm in favour of the pilot. I have confidence that St. Albert residents can behave responsibly,” said Heron. “Attitudes on alcohol are very different in Europe and they don't seem to have that many issues with it.”
While city council won’t meet to debate the pilot program until Aug.16, the program, if it passes, is slated to begin Aug. 20 and run until the end of September.
Many of St. Albert’s neighbouring municipalities, such as Morinville and Edmonton, began similar pilots in the summer, when the parks would be used most frequently.
Heron said in an interview with The Gazette that while the city would have liked to try for the summer, there were other more pressing concerns, and it ultimately fell through the cracks of administration.
“We weren’t going to call a special council meeting to discuss drinking in parks, but better late than never,” said Heron. “We’re going to use the best ideas from the examples we’ve seen from others.”
Edmonton's pilot, which is in effect from May 28 to Oct. 12, restricts park-goers to designated picnic tables in specific parks for their liquor consumption. Morinville's pilot, from July 1 to Sept. 6, is allowing consumption anywhere within its specified parks.
“We plan to only include a few parks,” said Heron. “Likely Lions Park and Rotary Park, but I’m not sure.”
Many of the specifics of the program will be decided during the city council debate.
Heron said St. Albert will also likely follow Edmonton’s designated picnic-table format.
Edmonton issued 31 tickets to park-goers who were consuming alcohol outside of the designated areas during its first month of the pilot, and more than 600 warnings. It also added a peace-officer detachment to the park-ranger patrols to help regulate consumption.
“We approach bylaws similarly,” said Heron. “We’ll likely give out plenty of warnings and probably get the RCMP to help.”
St. Albert RCMP did not return several of The Gazette's requests for comment.
City park users had mixed feelings on whether alcohol in public parks is a good idea.
“There’s a fine line between allowing people to drink and public intoxication,” said Nicole Cars, who was walking her dog at Lions Park on July 10. “I’m skeptical of this pilot project. I don’t look forward to getting drunkenly cat-called while I’m walking my dog.”
Nicole said she would also be worried about drunk people stumbling into roadways. “I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Alex Mutch, who was playing volleyball with some friends at Woodlands Park July 11, said he supports the pilot.
“I’m for it,” said Mutch. “My time in Europe opened my eyes [to the idea] that Canadian views on liquor are outdated.”
Dianne Tremblay, a St. Albert resident who visits a variety of parks around the city, isn't keen on alcohol consumption in city parks.
“Parks are for visiting family or sports,” said Tremblay, a grandmother of four. “You’re there to see kids and enjoy the outdoors. Alcohol doesn’t need to be a part of every activity.”
Sturgeon County residents Julie and Chris Collison often enjoy walks in St. Albert's parks. The pair said they welcome drinking in city green spaces.
"I don't have a problem with it,” said July while enjoying the afternoon near Lions Park by the railroad bridge on Monday. “As long as everyone is of age.”
Her husband, Chris, agreed. "Make sure that nobody goes too far, but go ahead, have a beer with your picnic. I'm for it.”