Perceptions about the idea of people consuming alcohol in Chilliwack parks shifted over the span of the recent pilot project, according to a new staff report from City of Chilliwack.
City council approved a bylaw last August that paved the way for park users to imbibe responsibly in designated areas only, in Vedder Park and Crossing Park.
The pilot ran smoothly from early August until the end of October 2020, without any complaints coming in to RCMP or bylaw enforcement at city hall.
Council asked city staff to gauge public opinion by conducting surveys, and to report back to council to determine the next steps.
It’s clear from the survey results released this week that there was some resistance early on and the support was only lukewarm, but as the trial continued people warmed up to it to some degree.
No complaints were received for the duration of the pilot, nor did bylaw enforcement personnel receive any complaints about liquor consumption in either location. The Chilliwack RCMP detachment did not get any calls either.
Initial reaction in the surveys was mixed and rather cool to the idea.
Three surveys went out. One was at a pop-up booth in Vedder Park and the others online. In all staff recorded 733 responses, according to the report delivered to council at the Dec. 19 meeting.
The on-site survey showed that 57.9 per cent strongly or somewhat supported the concept of allowing responsible alcohol consumption in designated public spaces, with 26.31 per cent strongly or somewhat opposed and 15.79 per cent neutral.
City staff were on-site at Vedder Park on Aug. 5 to gather initial feedback from park users.
The online survey went from Aug. 5 to Aug. 23, and found that only 40 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat supported the concept, 54 per cent of residents were strongly or somewhat opposed to the idea and six per cent were neutral.
People were more receptive by the end of it.
The last survey was the “post-implementation user experience survey” online from Nov. 17 to Dec. 7, 2020.
The purpose was to test reactions to the pilot project, and 81 per cent of respondents said they would like to see a similar project return next summer, and 73 per cent of respondents thought the 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. time frame worked “OK or very well.”
The matter will be coming back to council to decide if it will be tried again this coming summer or not.
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