Calgary's alcohol in parks pilot program nets more cheers than party fouls

·2 min read
The City of Calgary is past the halfway point of its alcohol in parks program, running June 1 to Sept. 7, 2021. Signs are posted on designated picnic tables in city parks explaining the rules. (Mike Symington - image credit)
The City of Calgary is past the halfway point of its alcohol in parks program, running June 1 to Sept. 7, 2021. Signs are posted on designated picnic tables in city parks explaining the rules. (Mike Symington - image credit)

Calgarians are well behaved when grabbing a beer by the benches or picking a pinot for a picnic — so far.

The City of Calgary's alcohol in parks pilot program has logged more than 1,400 picnic table bookings — and only one complaint — since launching on June 1.

"It's going really good," Calgary parks team lead Laura Smith said. "It appears to be successful."

The tables are first-come, first-served, with online booking taking priority.

Instead of adding staff to patrol parks, like Edmonton is doing, the city will survey Calgarians to better understand how the tables are being used, Smith said. Once the pilot wraps on Sept. 7, a report will be prepared for council in November.

Alcohol taken off one table

One table in Elbow Park is impossible to book. Try, and it seems there are no available times for table EPK252.

That's because Smith said residents and the community association in Elbow Park asked the city to remove one of the community's two drinking benches because of pre-existing issues.

"That was done in conjunction with consultation with the councilor's office," Smith said. "We wanted the table to be in an area where we're getting a good feel for the program and not any kind of skewed data."

When it comes to disorder, there's more to it than just public complaints. Smith said if someone calls about public intoxication, or if crews find litter near one of the city's tables, that information is relayed to the pilot team.

Despite losing one table, Smith said several communities came forward asking for sanctioned consumption tables.

The community of Renfrew requested a table.

"Once the initial list was released, we noticed there was nothing really in our community," said association president David Barrett. "So we actually reached out."

Barrett said it was a simple process that netted the community, not one but two tables. One of them, on community association property, is strictly first-come, first-served.

Community association sees benefit

Barrett said it's working quite well.

"We have weekly food truck events with live music on Wednesdays on the south side of our community association," Barrett said. "It's being used, at least anecdotally, at least once a week, when we have those events."

On a personal note, Barrett said he hopes the pilot will be the first step in a more relaxed approach by the city.

"Designate a larger area as opposed to just individual picnic tables," Barrett said. "But that's perhaps the next step of the project."

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