Calgary will open up 30 initial spots for citizens to enjoy a beverage in a park, as details on a long-awaited pilot project were rolled out.
The city said the spots are available for booking during the June 1 to Sept. 7 pilot project period. The distribution of parks is relatively equal across the city, however the southeast quadrant only has six spots, while the others have between nine and 12. The parks were chosen based on distance from schools and playground areas, the city said.
“As the weather warms after a very difficult winter, we’re excited to provide a new opportunity for Calgarians to responsibly connect with their parks and each other,” said Kyle Ripley, Director of Calgary Parks.
The city will start with 30 parks and depending on demand, they can add up to 30 more, according to Laura Smith, parks lead with the City of Calgary. The expansion could be determined in early as two weeks, Smith said.
Picnic tables will have to be booked five days in advance. They will all have signage designating it as a public space.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra from Ward 9 brought forward the initial notice of motion at a May 10 council meeting. It was approved 12-2.
In a release from the City, further regulations were laid out. Alcohol consumption would not be allowed throughout designated parks, only at select picnic tables and in two-hour time blocks.
“These picnic tables will be available for booking through our site. Picnic tables may be used on a first-come, first-served basis, but priority will be given to those who book a table with a permit,” reads the City’s page on the pilot program.
The city’s website states that drinking will be allowed in these spots between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. The times that can be reserved are between noon to 2 p.m., 4 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.
Tough opposition already
Despite strict guidelines in place, the pilot has already faced strong opposition from a variety of sources.
In May, some members of Alberta Health Services cited concerns around mental health concerns during the pandemic as reasons for the pilot to not go ahead.
Couns. Jeromy Farkas and Diane Colley Urquhart were also opposed for similar reasons to those outlined by AHS.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek had a unique response to the program.
“I find myself holding my nose and voting in favor of it, but I sure hope we don’t make it painful to do these bookings. I don’t know why we wouldn’t just put signs on these picnic sites that say go ahead and have a drink here,” said Gondek during the council meeting on May 10.
The city warned that the pilot would be discontinued if continuous complaints and disruptions were caused as a result.
There are no public washrooms in these park areas, the city said. Moderate drinking shouldn’t require washroom facilities. Further, garbage cans aren’t conveniently located. The city said people will be responsible for their own clean up.