Following a trial run last summer, the City of Penticton may allow drinking on the beach again in summer 2021.
After receiving feedback on the pilot project, the city is seeking more information on allowing drinking on the beach and may add another pilot project for summer 2021.
A one-month pilot program allowed the consumption of liquor in select parks and beaches along Okanagan Lake through parts of May and June last year. In June, city council passed a bylaw extending the pilot through the rest of the summer and later expanded the initiative to include parts of the Skaha Lake waterfront. The program in both locations wrapped up on Oct. 15.
City staff will be presenting feedback from various parties such as the RCMP and bylaw on the pilot project in Tuesday’s (Nov. 17) council meeting.
Staff is also expected to recommend that council plan for a similar pilot program next summer.
Feedback from the parks department suggests that there is a need for additional recycling and garbage facilities. Garbage and recycling demands “far exceeded” the existing infrastructure and capacity while drinks were allowed on the beach, according to the city’s parks department.
Better signage and description of approved areas as well as enforcement is recommended by all reports.
The RCMP set up a specific code this summer for files associated with liquor consumption on the beach in the pilot area. Thirty-five files were found to be related to liquor consumption in public. Of those files, the most common offence was causing a disturbance, which occurred 11 times.
Overall, the RCMP found “it does not appear that allowing liquor consumption within the specified areas added any significant strain to police resources.”
Meanwhile, bylaw staff found garbage and recycling capacity to be very lacking during the pilot project. Bylaw also said they witnessed many people “not observing the 8 p.m. deadline and acts of public urination.”
Bylaw recommends that more public education and signage is needed if the program is to continue but added it is hard to determine whether the issues observed were directly related to the pilot project or the “greater use of beaches due to COVID.”
“It is evident that more resources are required to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the bylaw areas should the initiative continue,” bylaw concluded in its report.
The Downtown Penticton Association, Chamber of Commerce and Travel Penticton all had few concerns with the pilot project. But they did note that it was hard to gauge the true impact of the project this year due to COVID-19 and suggested another pilot season should be tried before making any permanent decisions.
City staff consider the pilot project successful and are recommending that council give staff direction to create a similar bylaw and program for 2021. Council will consider the matter during the Tuesday (Nov. 17) council meeting.
Should the initiative be continued into 2021, an additional investment of $88,500 would be required to fund garbage and recycling capacity as well as more frequent clean-ups, according to city staff. The pilot project was completed with “little impact” on the city’s finances in 2020.