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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Should Trinity Bellwoods enforce booze laws?

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What: Public meeting to discuss alcohol consumption in Trinity Bellwoods Park
When: Thursday, July 4th, 6 p.m.
Where: Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre, Assembly Hall, 155 Crawford St.

Have an opinion on this? Join in on the meeting tomorrow and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Every nice day we have in the city sees twenty- and thirty-somethings flock to Trinity Bellwoods Park to enjoy the weather, spend time with their friends — and have a few drinks.

The park’s popularity as an inconspicuous drinking spot has been increasing every year. Last summer, most of the tippling park-goers were congregated around the lip of the dog bowl with their brown-bag beverages. On my first trip there this year, at the end of April, much of the field from the north end down to Trinity Circle was packed. A number of groups also had cases and coolers out in the open, showing little regard for the furtiveness that dictated behaviour in previous seasons.

This creates a tricky situation.

Of course, we’re talking about something that’s unlawful — but is it something that’s profoundly damaging the surrounding neighbourhood? As the popularity of this sort-of-speakeasy grows, it is creating its own organic sense of community, which may be capable of regulating itself: I’ve witnessed the public shaming of litterers — and the convenience of the elderly-Asian recycling system.

One could even argue that this congregation of scofflaws is making the area safer. With a large, vibrant, and increasingly engaged community springing up, there is less room for seedier groups to operate; it’s quite a Jane Jacobs sense of how neighbourhoods should be. While the circumstances are very different, the park’s revitalization and new-community vibe isn’t too far from what Dufferin Grove experienced a few years ago.

There is much more violent, disruptive, and disrespectful behaviour out on the streets of any big bar strip — where the alcohol is generally kept inside — than in Trinity Bellwoods. Even in my corner of the relatively peaceful Annex, there are always a few altercations happening amongst patrons of the Brunswick House on Thursday and Friday nights, not to mention the vandalism that goes on around the houses in close proximity. It seems to me the people frequenting Trinity Bellwoods are not the kind you’d find pissing on your front door when you come home at night.

So how can a compromise be reached between park-goers and the residents who are growing uncomfortable with public drinking just beyond their fences? Should an unstructured community be allowed to self-govern, outside the bounds of certain inconvenient laws? Would enforcing alcohol laws fix any problems, or would it just force Trinity Bellwoods’s patrons to abandon the park for parks elsewhere?





  1. If I can drink my bottle of wine or beer on my front porch or front lawn, why can’t those without porches or lawns, go to the park across the street and drink there? If there are rowdies, then arrest them, but don’t bother those who are behaving.

  2. What kind of idiotic question is that?
    If there’s a law, it should always be enforced!

    “The best way to get rid of a bad law, is to enforce it.”

  3. George,

    I don’t agree that all law should always be enforced. There are tons of laws that are hard to enforce and would be a huge waste of time and resources to enforce them. Just look at all the laws governing cycling, should or can they all be enforced? On the other hand, does that mean we should always get rid of all the laws that cannot and should not always be enforced? I don’t think so either. Take the stop sign, most cyclists roll past stop signs without full stop, which most of the time is perfectly safe. Should the law always be enforced and all those cyclists be fined? Of course not. But when there is a particularly aggressive cyclist who just blow past stop sign at full speed, police can throw this law at him/her. Without this law, it would be much trickier for police to hand down fines for more vague reasons (such as dangerous driving) as it would be much harder to prove in court. I think the current situation of stricter law and selective enforcement is actually a pretty good combination. Even though there are the annoying times when a police has no better thing to do and decides to apply the law literally, but overall, common sense prevails.

  4. If all anyone did was have a single beer in the park it wouldn’t be an issue, the problem becomes some people think that means they can get drunk, and obnoxious or violent.

    We need to assume that a police officer seeing someone with alcohol, but otherwise appearing sober, warning them about alcohol in the park, but otherwise leaving them alone. The law however gives that same police officer the ability to drag the guy 19 beers past drunk off to the drunk tank.

  5. “The law however gives that same police officer the ability to drag the guy 19 beers past drunk off to the drunk tank”

    And maybe the public intoxication laws are the ones we should be talking about enforcing. Not the public consumption laws.

  6. FordFest will be held this year in Thompson Park, in Scarborough. In addition to the free food, there will be free beer or wine. Maybe one reason for FordFest to be held in Scarborough and not in Toronto/Trinity Bellwoods Park, is that the neighbours would complain from around Trinity Bellwoods Park. Guess people are more “mature” in Scarborough.

  7. The problem is that the standard for public intoxication is pretty strict and my bigger concern is that more booze means more douche bags acting like no one else in the area matters, not open public drunkenness. Maybe we could have special fenced off areas in some parks and call them “class-free zones”. The people who drink in a way that makes public consumption unsavory to others can be herded in there while the rest of us enjoy the parks in peace.

  8. Ever walked by Queen and Ossington or Queen and Bathurst and seen the results of long term substance abuse? Those people are members of the community too and, if public drinking is allowed in parks, they will be drinking there. It won’t be pretty.