Booze allowed at 124 picnic sites across 18 parks between May 1 and October 10

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The city of Edmonton has added 77 more designated picnic sites, including several outside of the river valley, to its alcohol consumption pilot program for this summer.

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There will be 124 designated picnic sites across the city, up from 47 last year. Those sites are spread across 18 parks compared to just seven in last year’s program.

The sites include both bookable and first-come, first-served options and will allow adults to consume alcohol between 11 am and 9 pm, between May 1 and Oct. 10.

Signs indicating first-come, first-serve sites will be installed directly onto picnic tables. Bookable sites will be identified by signs on posts.

Alcohol consumption will be limited only to designated picnic sites and visitors will not be allowed to walk around with drinks in hand.

Consuming alcohol continues to be not permitted at parks and picnic sites that are not part of the pilot project.

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City staff council toldlors last month that proactive enforcement wouldn’t continue this year and rangers would only respond to complaints.

city ​​councilors voted to expand the pilot project last week and also to commission a simultaneous study of the program’s impacts.

A full list of designated site locations is available on the city’s website and includes sites outside of the river valley including Castle Downs Park, Callingwood Park, and Mill Woods Park.

The program was first introduced last summer at sites in Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Whitemud, William Hawrelak, Government House, Victoria, Gold Bar and Rundle parks.

All of those parks will host designated sites again this summer as will new locations at Constable Ezio Faraone, Emily Murphy and Paul Kane parks.

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New addition Hermitage Park has the most total designated sites of any with 14, all but one of them non-bookable.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park has the most bookable sites with four.

At a council committee in January, public health experts urged council not to bring back the pilot, saying it could increase liquor use and harm individuals’ health.

Others expressed concern that the program would disproportionately affect marginalized groups, including women, children and people experiencing homelessness

More than 14,000 people responded to the city’s online survey seeking feedback on the 2021 pilot and more than half reported a positive experience, a recent staff report shows. Some park users also gave input onsite during the pilot by scanning QR codes.

The program was approved in spring of 2021, with council noting it would give Edmontonians an opportunity to gather and share a drink outdoors with many COVID-19 measures still in place that impacted indoor gatherings.

–with files from Lauren Boothby, Dustin Cook and Anna Junker

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