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Burnaby council approves alcohol in parks program

Beginning around June, parkgoers can enjoy drinking some adult beverages in select parks around Burnaby.
Burnaby council has decided on the program to allow drinking in local parks. Photo Milshot/E+/Getty Images.

On Monday (May 8), Burnaby council approved the first steps in a pilot program to allow alcohol in select parks around the city.

The program, which will be brought for final council approval around June, will select parks for the pilot based on park size and layout, accessibility to public transportation, existing amenities like washrooms, seating and waste disposal, and safety features such as lighting.

Staff will monitor the program for expenses (which will likely include signage and sign maintenance, waste management and bylaw patrols) over the course of the program.

Nearby cities have already adopted similar programs for drinking in parks, including Vancouver, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Delta and Port Coquitlam, according to a staff report.

Council response

Councillors unanimously approved the program, though one expressed some concerns.

Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said he was not “a fan” of drinking in parks, as he believed it comes with additional costs like enforcement.

He also expressed concerns about staff priorities, especially as they are currently short-staffed.

“It’s the last thing we need, but particularly … I think it’s the timing thing, because when we are talking (about) creating a bylaw which doesn’t exist, which we have to create to run the pilot … it has to be brought forward in a very short time,” Dhaliwal said, and added it would cause disruption to staff.

He suggested staff could push the program back to fall this year.

The city’s deputy general manager of parks and recreation Carmen Gonzalez said the city would be able to look at examples from other neighbouring communities that have passed similar bylaws.

“I am speaking from experience in other municipalities, it is something that can be done,” Gonzalez said. “We are aware of regulations and what is required, and there are a handful of things – but we do believe we can get a draft ready for June.”

She noted the program would be used throughout the summer months.

BCA Coun. Daniel Tetrault said the program was long overdue.

He noted how COVID highlighted the importance of public space and parks.

“I’ve seen that firsthand in parks close to where I live, and the last three years, it’s just been buzzing,” he said. “And I don’t see why we can’t have people join other friends and family and enjoy an adult beverage responsibly.”

BCA Coun. Maita Santiago added with growing density, many Burnaby residents live in towers and don’t have access to backyard space, making Burnaby’s parks a good opportunity for socializing.

Councillors unanimously approved staff to develop a bylaw that would allow the pilot program. Staff will report back in June.