A sign outlines the rules of the City of Calgary’s alcohol in parks program. PHOTO: CITY OF CALGARY

With well over 1,500 bookings during the pilot program last summer, the City of Calgary is now expanding park spaces designed for alcohol consumption. 

With the expansion, Calgarians can legally drink alcohol between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. at a growing number of locations in city parks, including picnic tables, larger sites and even some open area spots. 

Laura Smith, a team lead with Calgary Parks, says a survey found more than 70 per cent of people who participated in the pilot program stated they visited new parks or went more often. 

“We think it’s a good way to encourage Calgarians or visitors to get outside in our natural spaces and enjoy parks,” Smith says. 

The pilot program targeted areas where people may not have backyards, which continues to be a motivation for the new regulations. 

“It really allows them to socialize with their friends and family and in an outdoor setting, rather than be restricted to indoors,” Smith says. 

People can book one of the more than 80 picnic tables in city parks for free, while the large picnic sites can be reserved in advance for a fee. If not in use, both tables and sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Alcohol is also permitted now in an open area at Buckmaster Park, with open areas at Barb Scott Park, Lindsay Park, the Southview Off-Leash Area, Tomkins Park and West Baker Park coming later this spring. 

Smith notes the city was initially concerned people would avoid parks if alcohol was permitted, but fewer than two per cent of Calgarians indicated they would in a survey. 

Smith feels optimistic about the expansion, emphasizing there were only two complaints of negative behaviour during the pilot program and Calgarians are encouraged to call 311 if they have a complaint. 

“If we do see an area that does have quite a few problems, officers can go on a more regular basis and they could issue tickets,” Smith says. “And if we start to see that one area just has concern after concern after concern, then we can certainly take that one area offline and take it out of the program entirely.”

The alcohol-designated zones must be distanced from playgrounds, which may limit expansion in the future. Smith says the city could possibly find a way to include other areas if there is a need.

Learn more about the program or make a reservation on the City of Calgary website

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