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Red Deer officials will allow Calgary to trial alcohol in parks

The result could determine if local rules are relaxed
Alcohol prohibition remains in Red Deer parks (Advocate file photo).

Relaxing rules around drinking alcohol in Red Deer parks could depend on how things play out in Calgary this spring and summer.

Alberta’s most populous city is conducting an online survey to discover if park users want to be able to consume alcohol at designated picnic areas.

If there’s enough support, the City of Calgary could opt to launch a pilot project with some designated alcohol-friendly picnic sites this summer.

Trevor Poth, Red Deer’s parks superintendent, is very much aware of Calgary’s online public engagement process.

While the City of Red Deer is not considering relaxing alcohol prohibitions in local parks at this time, Poth said city officials will be keeping an eye on what the outcomes are in Calgary for future reference.

“We’re interested to see what Calgary decides. At this point, Red Deer is not interested in being a leader in (allowing) alcohol consumption in parks,” explained Poth.

The city prefers letting larger municipalities test these kinds of changes, and then consider whether they would benefit local residents.

The only alcohol allowed in Red Deer’s parks system requires a special permit. A beer garden is permitted during Bard on Bower’s Shakespeare in the park presentations, for instance, and Poth said beer tents have been allowed at some other special events, such as mud runs.

While some city residents might occasionally sneak a glass of wine in with their picnic lunch, this is unlikely to draw the attention of a bylaw officer unless they were being disruptive, said Poth.

The problem with allowing alcohol consumption in parks is that things could turn rowdy, ruining the day for other users, he added.

Calgary officials have stressed that public intoxication prohibitions and penalties would remain in place, regardless of whether some alcohol consumption is allowed.

The Town of Sylvan Lake does not allow any alcohol drinking in its parks, including along the lakeshore.

Joanne Gaudet, the town’s communications co-ordinator, said as far as she knows, the public has not been clamouring for a change.

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