Coming into effect last week on Friday, May 28, Edmontonians can now legally drink alcohol at seven designated parks in the River Valley.
City Council passed the measure in early May in response to a survey asking Edmontonians if they would be in favour of the move. The online survey was open throughout February and March 2021, during which time it received 15,554 responses. Of those responses, 71 per cent indicated that they would support allowing public alcohol consumption in designated outdoor areas.
The pilot project is set to run until October 11, 2021, and includes picnic sites at Rundle Park, Gold Bar Park, Victoria Park, Government House Park, William Hawrelak Park, Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and Whitemud Park. There are a total of 47 picnic sites spread out across the seven parks where Edmontonians are now allowed to consume alcohol, each marked with clear signage and rules that must be followed. Fourteen sites are available for pre-booking through the City of Edmonton website, while the rest will operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Public alcohol consumption is still prohibited in most jurisdictions across Canada. This new pilot project moves Edmonton in line with cities like Montreal and Europe’s major metropolitan centres, and for its supporters, it’s a positive step away from Prohibition era liquor laws that have persisted until now. It has also been touted by some as a way to encourage more adults to get outside and use city parks throughout the summer.
That said, support for the pilot project is not unanimous. At a May 3 City Council meeting, Ward 2 Councillor Bev Esslinger expressed hesitation about the measure, citing a recommendation from Alberta Health Services that the City not go forward with the pilot. Esslinger sided with councillors Tony Caterina and Tim Cartmell to vote against the measure, although it ultimately passed through Council with an 8-3 majority.
With regard to concerns about public safety, the City will assign peace officers throughout the River Valley to ensure that rules are followed, as well as to respond to any issues associated with public drunkenness. Peace officers will also enforce the relevant COVID-19 restrictions.
Edmontonians can give their feedback on the pilot project via an open online survey.