Calgarians already making use of park spots for legal libation

Calgarians see upgrades to park spaces being used for city's alcohol in parks pilot project

This Edgemont park bench is one of the 50 locations used in the city's pilot project, which has been ongoing for seven weeks. ETHAN WARD/ FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

It’s only been a day, but citizens are out enjoying boozy bevvies in select Calgary parks.

With COVID making restaurants less accessible and people aching to go and enjoy the hot weather, this new option is attracting people from across Calgary.

Thirty-six designated locations opened up on June 1, with bookings available at specific time frames. The booking process and general difficulty of getting a spot has deterred some would-be adopters of the project.

Dissatisfied with booking system

Rob Adams decided to enjoy the warm weather by being one of the first people to give this pilot project a whirl. Sipping some whiskey at the Dalhousie location, Adams and his friends said, while enticing, the pilot project has some barriers preventing easy enjoyment. Specifically when it comes to booking.

“I don’t book much 24 hours in advance of anything. Five days in advance to book a table is a bit much,” said Adams.

“I don’t see any hurdles to a live booking system. I could book and then cancel, just showing a live schedule of when it’s booked and when it’s not.”

Adams’ friend, Julie Jones, also voiced similar doubts about the booking system.

“I’m not sure exactly what they were thinking with this system. It’s certainly not very casual. I think most people are going to end up using this on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than making use of the booking system,” said Jones.

Booking isn’t mandatory. Bookings are available for three time slots, 12-2 p.m., 4-6 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., but those interested can show up any time between 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to enjoy a refreshing beverage, first come first serve.

This is especially welcoming as Calgary is staring down a heatwave this week, the first meteorological week of summer.

Rob Adams (far-right) and his friends were one of the first groups to take advantage of the city’s new pilot project. ETHAN WARD / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

A new way to enjoy Calgary parks

While the booking system leaves much to be desired for some, Adams and his friends couldn’t deny the appeal of the pilot project and plan to make use of it again.

Especially with the pandemic ongoing, some felt that this is a great opportunity to encourage people to get out and enjoy Calgary.

Moiz Sayed wasn’t drinking alcohol on the opening day of the pilot project. Instead, he was sipping his McDonald’s coffee. But Sayed said he would be interested in coming back to give it a shot.

“I think I will be taking advantage of this in the future, especially with COVID going on right now. People have been indoors for a long time like myself,” Syed said.

“That’s why I got out here today. Not drinking, obviously, but I just had to get out and get some sun. I think the pilot project will be helpful for people in that way.”

Positives associated with the pilot project

The pilot program also seemingly gave the city a chance to fix up some parts of these parks being included in the pilot program.

Edgemont resident Marion Stuart said she noticed previously damaged benches that were lying neglected with broken boards have been repaired for use in the alcohol consumption project.

“When this bench was broken, I never saw anyone using it. Now that it has been repaired, I saw a family using it for a picnic. I don’t know if they were drinking alcohol, but they were using that bench nonetheless,” Stuart said.

Adams also noted that the bench they were using in Dalhousie had gained some much needed improvements. He hoped that the city took things further with fixing up the park.

“I’ve lived next to this park for a couple of years, and I’ve never seen anyone sit at this table until today,” Adams said.

“This pilot project might result in these spaces getting used more. Especially since this bench has been fixed up with new boards. I wish the city went a little further and added some more new stuff to this park.”

Risks and concerns

With all these benefits, there are still some lingering doubts about the program for some.

Marion Stuart’s husband Pat Stuart said that they weren’t planning on consuming alcohol in parks or making any bookings, but saw no harm in the idea, with a few exceptions.

“I don’t have any concerns, but there are always going to be people that spoil it for others by having a wild party and having an excess amount of alcohol. Just creating havoc. That’s the exception though, not the rule,” Pat Stuart said.

Syed also voiced concerns about potential issues, despite being mostly positive on the idea.

“I’m worried about how it might lead to drinking and driving, which is way more dangerous than just having alcohol at a park,” Syed said.

The pilot project is set to continue throughout the summer ending on Sept. 1.

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