British Columbia

How Penticton's beach drinking pilot looks 1 week in

One week into Penticton's pilot program to allow public drinking at the city's main beach on Okanagan Lake and some waterfront parks, the idea feels like a progressive step for some beachgoers, but others feel the relaxed rules interfere with their enjoyment of the public spaces.

Penticton and North Vancouver are the only two B.C. municipalities to designate public spaces for drinking

Beachgoers Tyler O'Hara and Maria Freire say they no longer have to worry about hiding their drinks when they enjoy a cold beer on the sand, now that Penticton has allowed alcohol consumption at the beach. (Brady Strachan)

One week into Penticton B.C.'s pilot program to allow public drinking at the city's main beach on Okanagan Lake and some waterfront parks, the idea feels like a progressive step for some beachgoers, but others feel the relaxed rules interfere with their enjoyment of the public spaces.

"It's beautiful. It's nice not to have to hide your beers," said Tyler O'Hara who came down to the beach with his wife Maria to enjoy a couple of cans of beer they picked up at a local craft brewery a few blocks away.

"I think it's definitely going to be the future of B.C., as long as everything goes well. And it seems to be going pretty smoothly."

Last Tuesday, Penticton became only the second municipality to allow drinking at some public spaces when city council voted to give the idea a one month trial.  Alcohol consumption is allowed between noon and 8 p.m. 

The City of North Vancouver passed a similar motion the day before to allow alcohol consumption in some of its parks and public spaces. 

The idea has also been debated in Vancouver, but recently stalled as city staff look into getting approval from the provincial government to move forward with a plan.

Parkgoers Barbara Alexander and Kathy Larsson are concerned people drinking in the park won't stop at 8 p.m. when they are supposed to and that some will leave behind litter and glass bottles. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Penticton's pilot allows adults to drink alcohol in parts of beaches and parks where families and children come to enjoy the sand and sunshine.

Judith de Niet came to the the waterfront to sit with a friend, while her young children play nearby.

De Niet isn't drinking herself, but she doesn't have a problem if others around her choose to do so.

"I think it's a great idea. If people want to drink, they will drink anyway," she said.

"You hope that most adults make good decisions and have responsible behaviours. There will always be the odd person who doesn't, but I think that is the case in general."

The new rules are not going over as well for parkgoers Barbara Alexander and Kathy Larsson, who come to Marina Way Park each day to read books together.

They are worried about people littering in the park and getting behind the wheel after they have been drinking.

"I don't think it's a good idea. Parks should be for throwing a Frisbee and swimming at the beach," said Larsson.  "I just don't think you need to drink."

Public feedback on the pilot project

The Interior Health Authority has indicated some concerns with public drinking on beaches and in parks, including the risk of normalizing public drinking for youth.

The RCMP also expressed concerns about not being able to increase patrols at the beaches and parks where drinking is allowed.

The City of Penticton will look for public feedback on the public drinking pilot project and review the plan after it ends on July 4.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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