Lacombe may soon allow residents to enjoy a beverage with some buzz in city parks.
City council debated changes to its bylaws to allow responsible liquor consumption in city parks, including Len Thompson Fishing Pond, Les Walker Rotary Park, Lacombe Memorial Centre Park, a picnic area in Michener Park and Cranna Lake Picnic Area.
The province opened the door to alcohol consumption in parks when it updated the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act last year. Changes included streamlining the liquor licence application process and allowing for responsible liquor consumption in municipal parks. Liquor consumption may also be allowed in provincial campsites and designated day-use and picnic areas.
Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey believes the proposal will go over well in the community.
“I think the overwhelming majority of individuals are going to see this as a responsible and positive move,” he said this week.
“However, there is a certain portion of our population that is not going to appreciate it and I think they ought to have a place to go if they choose to.”
“I do see it as very positive for our downtown area around the Memorial Centre for music in the park primarily.”
Restaurants may also benefit if diners can pick up meals and enjoy them with an alcoholic beverage in a local park.
Lacombe’s bylaw changes limit alcohol consumption in public parks to specified areas. Drinking will only be allowed from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The bylaw allows for fines of $150 for those drinking outside designated areas and $250 for public intoxication.
Coun. Jonathan Jacobson, who suggested last month that council look at allowing alcohol consumption in designated park areas, said he supports it on philosophical grounds.
“I firmly believe that wherever possible the government should not be in the business of policing how you choose to experience your reality so far as it does not interfere with anyone else.
“I know this is something that exists anyway in reality to a very large degree, and all this is simply going to be doing is making the bylaw reflect that, frankly.”
There was some discussion about whether to allow drinking in the bleachers at Michener Park.
Not allowing drinking in the bleachers while it is permitted nearby could create confusion and enforcement issues. It is a bit of a grey area in provincial legislation, acknowledged chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy.
“I think including the bleachers will minimize the calls for enforcement by facilitating that behaviour. Will that lead to liability for the municipality because that is not a picnic area? Maybe.
“This has never been tested out, so it’s very tough to say.”
Coun. Thalia Hibbs said declaring the bleachers off limits could cause problems.
“Honestly, I just think you’re setting people up to fail because it’s such a small area that actually would be allowed and the rest prohibited. I honestly just think that would be a mistake.”
Hibbs said she wants to hear from the public before council goes to third and final reading.
“I would like the public to get a chance to get back to us on this.”
Creasey wondered if allowing drinking in the stands at Michener Park might be going too far to start with.
“I am not opposed to it, however, I think it might be just too much right off the bat,” he said. If responsible drinking in parks proves successful the areas where it is allowed could be expanded later.
Creasey said he also wants to hear what the public thinks.
“We will receive lots of input, which is great, then we can make a decision on third and final reading at a later date.”