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Trinity Bellwoods Park renews strategies for alcohol crackdown

June 14th, 2014 · No Comments

Park users face $125 fine for popping a cold one

By Samina Esha

After a brutal winter we all look forward to the hot summer days with bright sun and chilled beers. In recent years, Trinity Bellwoods Park has become one of Toronto’s favourite warm weather drinking spots and it has taken on a life of its own. A recent community meeting held on April 3 at the Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre became an open forum for discussing strategies to stop alcohol use in the park along with the park preservation. Staff Sgt. James Hogan of 14 Division says the community meeting was meant to be about education and awareness.

“Drinking in a public park ultimately leads to selfish and uncontrollable behaviour, followed by noise and loitering, which is just disturbing others,” said Hogan. “This meeting was part of an ongoing effort to promote awareness and education before the summer. We wanted to start a discussion about what respectful park use looks like along with listening to the output of the community.”

Located at the focal point of the inner city neighbourhood, this 14.6-hectare park on Queen Street West at Strachan Avenue was once home to Trinity College. The park sits above the now-buried Garrison Creek and contains eight tennis courts, two volleyball courts, an artificial ice rink, an off-leash area for dogs, a picnic area, a wading pool, and a children’s playground. The very picturesque park area spans the entire length of the neighbourhood with Trinity Community Recreation Centre located on the southwest section of the park.

People sipping beer and wine are a common sight at the park in the summer among mothers walking with their children in strollers, cyclists, and dog walkers.

“It’s funny because some people think the city bylaws don’t apply in the park. I am not sure how they came to that conclusion. Some said social media implies that you can bring all the booze you want and drink in the park. Not true,” said Staff Sgt. Hogan.

This is the second year that such a meeting has been held for public awareness. Although the numbers for public drinking have gone down, some people are still oblivious to the law.

“I was at the park last Tuesday and a young couple was out with a six pack of beer and they genuinely thought that they are legally allowed to drink in this park. So, to prevent such scenarios we are preparing pamphlets to make people aware of the situation,” added Hogan.

Last year’s meeting held by the park, community, police, and even Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton, became a huge discussion point and an example for park drinking.

Part of the story leading up to the meeting had been a fairly new strategy by police called “Project Green Glasses”, which was described as an upcoming crackdown on park drinking in the western half of downtown, particularly in Trinity Bellwoods, Christie Pits, Dufferin Grove, and Alexandra parks. In Toronto, drinking in public can earn one up to a $125 fine, which is part of the Liquor Licence Act (LLA). Staff Sgt. Hogan mentioned that, under the City of Toronto’s park by-law, consuming, serving, or selling liquor in a park without a permit can result in a steep fine of $360. More police and bylaw officers will be patrolling the parks starting later this month.

“Overall we want parks to be a welcoming place for everyone and hopefully not to be handing out tickets for drinking,” said Hogan.

Thursday night’s meeting focused more on park conservation than on open drinking, with issues varying from public safety to noise control to tree preservation.

According to Eamon McGrath’s comment on Trinity Bellwoods Community Association’s website, “The notion of punishing people for consuming–and enjoying–alcohol in a public place, particularly in a city where most of its residents do not have the luxury of having a private outdoor area to consume it, is ridiculous and absurd.”

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