Drinking booze at some North Vancouver parks is here to stay

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Cracking a beer or sipping chardonnay while chilling at eight parks and plazas in North Vancouver will now be allowed on a permanent basis.

The City of North Vancouver council voted unanimously Monday night to approve making a summer pilot project, that allowed the public to drink alcohol within designated areas at nine civic parks and plazas, permanent with a few tweaks.

The city made national news in June when council voted to allow the pilot project to go a head – the first jurisdiction outside of Quebec to do so.

The pilot project, in response to COVID-19, was intended to give city residents more options to safely socialize outdoors while giving some stimulus to local business.

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Speaking at the council meeting, Mayor Linda Buchanan said overwhelmingly the pilot was a success.

“I heard over and over and over again from people that they really, really appreciated the opportunity to use our public spaces in this way,” she said.

“People for the most part have behaved incredibly well.

“As I said at the beginning, when we did this, if we treat adults like adults they’ll rise to the occasion and, I think, for the majority of the time, they have. This has been an excellent pilot and I’m happy to support it being permanent moving forward.”

Councillor Angela Girard echoed Mayor Buchanan’s comments saying she believed it was a “great pilot,” which gave families more options to socialize outdoors.

“There’s no question for those that are living in multi-family dwellings that simply did not have the space to meet with friends or with family, this certainly gave them a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the parks, and I still see people in the parks even as the weather cools,” she said. “I applaud the residents of the city for being respectful.”

More than 85 per cent of the written comments the city received about the pilot were positive. Anecdotally, staff found businesses benefited through increased takeout and delivery to parks.

The original pilot included Waterfront Park (with a 20-metre buffer around the children’s playground), Victoria Park (west), the grassy area on the west side of Mahon Park, the civic plaza adjoining municipal hall and the North Vancouver City Library, Grand Boulevard and the northwest corner of Ray Perrault Park, Kings Mill Walk, the foot of Lonsdale, Shipbuilders Square, and Cates Deck.

Between June and Oct. 15, when the pilot project was scheduled to end, police were called 13 times for complaints related to alcohol in the designated areas. Of those, seven calls were for noise at the civic plaza, so staff are recommended it be pulled from the list of places where people can pop a cork.

The city did incur about $80,000 in extra garbage and recycling collection expenses while the pilot was on, although park use was up generally over the summer months, staff noted.

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The report also recommended a change to the hours when people enjoy a local pilsner in public, making it go from noon until dusk, rather than 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

– With files from Brent Richter, North Shore News

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