Saanich council to consider motion allowing drinking in public parks

Saanich council to consider motion allowing drinking in public parks
WatchSaanich council is thinking of allowing people to drink in public parks, but it's a polarizing subject with many in support, but many opposing, including the Saanich Police. Rebecca Lawrence reports.

A normal sight in a Saanich park includes picnickers, walkers and dogs.

But soon, you could be packing a Pinot Noir.

That’s because District of Saanich councillors are set to vote on whether or not to temporarily allow drinking in public parks at their upcoming council meeting on Monday.

If approved by councillors, alcohol consumption would be allowed at only 14 of the district’s 170 parks, including Tyndall, the Gorge Waterway and Cadboro/Gyro park, from noon until 8 p.m.

The move would also be temporary and part of a pilot project that would end on Sept. 30.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said with the ongoing pandemic, the idea should be embraced.

“Families can enjoy the company of their family and friends with a glass of wine, or beer or alcohol of their choice and enjoy social distancing responsibly in parks,” said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

“We have ‘staycation’ here and we don’t want our residents to travel. Quite honestly, some of them are going stir crazy, let’s enable this part of the enjoyment to be embraced,” said Haynes.

And some locals say cracking a cold one by the lake would be welcomed.

“It all depends on the adult, if the parents are responsible, the kids will be fine,” said a Saanich mom. “Having a glass of water with your kids on the beach is no harm.”

Another resident agreed, saying, “I think it would be okay as long as people are respectful of everyone around them and clean up their mess.”

READ: Saanich council passes motion allowing six unrelated people to live under one roof

But not everyone is on board, including the Saanich Police Department.

In a letter available on the district’s website, Saanich PD said that alcohol can lead to poor decisions, which could mean more service calls for police as there are not enough bylaw officers to help ensure safety.

“We do not believe that it is in the best interests of ensuring community safety,” the department said.

Saanich PD expressed concerns about the potential for those from other communities coming to the district to drink in a park.

“There is real concern that persons will come from outside of their communities and from other municipalities to consume liquor in these Saanich parks. Absent controls to monitor and moderate consumption, some of these persons will be leaving our parks impaired, placing themselves, vulnerable road users and other motorists at significant risk,” the letter said.

The department noted that the 14 proposed parks are ones where overnight sheltering is allowed. In its letter, Saanich PD argued that allowing drinking in these parks would result in homeless people who are already camping out at the parks at night to remain there all day drinking.

“All of the proposed parks are parks in which temporary overnight sheltering is not prohibited and could result in fifteen different versions of Gorge Park, where homeless people are compliant with ‘tent up and tent down’ restrictions, but who then remain in the park, drinking all day until evening and repeat,” Saanich PD said in its letter.

However, Haynes who is also chair of the police board said he understands the concerns. He said if the measure passes and doesn’t work this Summer, the district can cancel it.

North Vancouver is set to allow residents to pop a cork in public parks on Monday, and Penticton has allowed drinking in parks for a number of weeks.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!