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'We get along fine': Edmonton's booze sites in public parks here to stay

Despite a split vote, Edmontonians will again be able to crack open a cold beer or a bottle of wine at designated city park sites this summer.

In two pilot projects, the city opened 47 booze-approved sites in 2021 and 124 last summer. On Monday, councillors voted to open them again on an "ongoing basis."

Bylaw officers wrote zero tickets and gave just three warnings in 2022.

"I am actually pleased with the survey results that we have not seen any disorder issues or people causing disturbance to other users of the park. So that tells you that Edmontonians, you know, we get along fine, right?" said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

"Not everyone can afford to have a backyard as we build a city that is more denser (sic) and more compact, so I think it's important from that point of view."

The sites were open from May 1 until Oct. 10 and were spread out across 18 parks, with Government House, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Rundle and Hermitage parks having the most locations.

A city report states 80 per cent of people were in favour of having drinking sites in parks.

"There's no reason not to do this at this point, if we're not going to spend any more money. Edmontonians want it. We actually haven't seen the negative impacts that we assumed," Coun. Andrew Knack said.

The motion called for drinking to remain in "designated picnic sites" in alignment with provincial laws, but it did not specify how many sites or where they'll be located.

It passed 3-2 with Sohi, Knack and Aaron Paquette voting in favour.

The original sites in the 2021 pilot project:

The city approved sites in 11 more parks in 2022: 

Councillors Jennifer Rice and Karen Principe voted against the sites, citing safety reasons.

"I have heard many concerns lately of social disorder. I'm not saying that this will cause social disorder, but there is the potential for it," Principe said. "I just don't think this is the right time to be supporting this."

Two members of the city's Community Services Advisory Board have also encouraged councillors to stop park drinking, and at the same meeting in January 2022 an Alberta Health Services official said outdoor spaces are "one of the more risky places for drinking and alcohol-related harms."

The plan is to leave drinking banned in some parks and run the drinking sites program within existing budgets.

"There still will be parks that are completely alcohol free, so that choice and availability will be there for everyone. I think that's a huge part of creating an inclusive community," Coun. Anne Stevenson said.

According to the city survey, 67 per cent of Edmontonians agree that designating drinking sites allows the city to "better regulate an activity that was already happening."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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