This Thursday, a public meeting will be called to discuss consumption of alcohol in Toronto’ s Trinity Bellwoods Park. It’s an inevitable subject for any whom have spent a lazy afternoon there, shifting through the grass away from the shadows of the trees to keep the sun on their back.
About a decade ago, a similar issue arose in the dog bowl of Trinity Bellwooods with the hippie Drum Circle that would break out there every Tuesday night. While part of the problem was surely the cans and garbage that would adorn the hill afterward, the main issue was that the cacophony of tribal rhythms and people cheering would often extend well past 11pm, causing an undue noise disturbance for nearby residents; who, among other things, couldn’t enjoy the Letterman monologue without distraction.
However, that was a very different situation. With the Drum Circle, there was a focused issue: one group doing one thing in a specific area of the park one night a week. The end result was that the hippies negotiated with the locals and concluded to not only be more stringent about ending around 11pm, but also to host it at Ashbridges Bay every other week. What is being discussed this Thursday will surely be more on the topic of seemingly careless drinking by any number of subcultures that use the park, who are doing so openly whenever and wherever they want. While this alone should not be a problem, and wouldn’t be in most parts of Europe, the fact is that it’s against the law in Canada and, since this everyday occurrence isn’t an organized protest, it needs to be addressed.
Beyond the anarchistic nature of the current social scene in Bellwoods, there are other pros and cons that need to be considered. Firstly, those drinking in the park (mostly 20-35 year olds) aren’t harming anyone. The most disturbing occurrence I can recall recently was the frontman of a local act, that shall remain nameless, starting a grass blade kazoo chorus at 6pm on a Sunday. For 20 minutes, they annoyed mostly everyone in the direct vicinity; although, I’m not even sure that the instigator was imbibing.
The biggest issue in this debate is that no one is trying to hide it. Enter Bellwoods any summer day after 3pm and you will see many a vintage-sporting, urban-type holding a can of Pabst while playing Frisbee or laying on a blanket with friends. People have become so used to being left alone that they generally no longer bother to put their booze in a to-go cup, thermos or other non-descript container. Of course, the main argument against this is the ever-so-redundant “Think of the children! What a bad example you’re setting.” To that end, 4 bike cops were patrolling Bellwoods last Friday in the early evening, handing out warnings and tickets to many sipping park-loungers.
The recent recession brought with it a surge of those harder-done-by sweeping downtown neighbourhoods in search of disposed booze bottles and cans. Their simple mission was to collect the 5 and 10 cent return fees handed out at The Beer Store to encourage recycling. Bellwoods, as a hub of casual drinking, has attracted a dedicated squad of regulars, mostly elderly Asian people, who troll the park requesting and picking up empties faster than most can finish them. In this, a wonderful ecosystem has formed and the park (for the most part) has never been tidier.
If, as I have assumed, the biggest problem here is that Gen Y’s are being too pompous in assuming that we can just advertise our skirting of government over-regulation and not suffer any consequence, then perhaps all we need to do is follow the lead of those in the slums of Baltimore. When faced with penalization for drinking openly on their front porches, locals simply put a paper bag over their bevvies; an act which was enough for the Baltimore Police Department to turn a blind eye as they realized the law, in this case, was ridiculous. (Yes, I learned that from The Wire). Perhaps we could even go a step farther and take $1.79 of the money we’ve saved not drinking at a bar and invest in a slurpee cup to keep our bad habits away from the eyes of wee-impressionable ones playing in one of the city’s best natured-areas. Then again, perhaps it’s too late.
You can have your say this Thursday July 4th @ 6pm in the Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre Assembly Hall. The meeting is open to everyone and every voice makes a difference. Might want to leave your beer at home for this one, though.