DON’T FORGET THE 10 P.M. CURFEW
Rowdiness On The Beach Spoils It For Many
by John Streit The West End Journal
This as thousands of people flood the West End and Stanley Park searching for some space with a view of the ocean to party or simply chill out with friends in a seemingly unregulated environment. The popularity of gathering at the beaches in the late afternoon and evening has exploded since the start of the pandemic, after health officials urged people to head to the relative safety of the outdoors to mingle. This popularity does not seem to be diminishing even as COVID-19 health regulations end and bars and pubs revert to regular hours.
On a warm summer night, long lines can be seen outside the two closest liquor stores to English Bay Beach. People can be seen openly carrying cases of beer and bottles of hard liquor and heading straight down Denman or Davie streets for the beaches. When the provincial liquor store on Davie near Bidwell closes early on Sundays, the queue is even longer at the privately owned liquor store on Denman, sometimes stretching up to the Comox entrance of Denman Mall.
Multiple signs posted at the beaches read “Keep our parks and beaches smoke-free” “No fires” and “No drinking” but those warnings have certainly not been stopping people. Lifeguards used to be the first to enforce those rules by megaphone or calmly walking over and explaining the rules to scofflaws, but that’s no longer being done. The West End Journal reached out to the BC branch of the Lifesaving Society but did not receive a comment. The entire lifeguard system has been in the news recently due to staff shortages across the country, as fewer people enter the profession, full or part time.
Vancouver Police say dedicated beach patrol officers work every afternoon and evening throughout the summer to maintain order on the beaches. Constable Tania Visintin tells the TWEJ that the best practice is to support Park Rangers with the 10 p.m. closure. “Park Rangers take the lead in parks, the VPD is there to support them and provide enforcement when needed.”
She says police noticed more people were out and about on the first weekend of the summer. ”Lots of people were drinking and had open liquor on the beach, despite English Bay not being a permitted park where drinking alcohol is allowed. We saw a lot of garbage left behind and as well as had several noise complaints from neighborhoods throughout the night,” she says.
Visintin says most of the challenges faced by the VPD involve people drinking alcohol in places that are not designated parks. “Places like beaches and in the entertainment districts. This has led to a significant amount of street disorder. We continue to encourage people to research where open alcohol is permitted, and to understand that they could be ticketed if they are drinking outside the designated places and times,” she says.
According to the Vancouver Park Board, Harbour Green Park and the southwest corner of Stanley Park are the only two parks in the West End allowing open drinking as part of an extended pilot project involving 22 locations across the city. English Bay Beach and Sunset Beach are not on the list.
On its website, the Park Board says, “we expect people consuming alcohol in parks to use their common sense, drink responsibly, and respect other park users.”
Drinking is permitted throughout areas of parks listed, except for areas:
Within 20 meters of a playground, school, or natural area
Within 5 metres of a pool, splash park, or water park
In, on, or within a:
Beach, pond, lake, or dock;
Seawall, roadway, parking lot, or building entrance area;
Garden or horticultural display area;
Sports field, sports court, skate park, fitness amenity, or pitch and putt golf course;
Community centre, fieldhouse, or washroom;
Designated off-leash dog area.
In a post to Instagram on the weekend of June 27th, the Park Board wrote “Our crews work hard to keep our beaches clean all year round, and were taken aback by the incredible amount of trash left at city beaches this weekend. As more people come to enjoy the sunshine, please remember that it’s everyone’s responsibility to clean up after themselves.”
Q&A WITH A BEACH FOR EVERYONE
Holly Hayes is the managing director of A Beach for Everyone. Established in 2021, it was founded in Vancouver by longtime West End resident Paul Melhus, with the mission of “ensuring our beaches and parks are a safe haven where everyone can come to enjoy nature and natural sounds.” Here’s our Q&A with Hayes about the situation at West End beaches.
1. Tell TWEJ a bit about yourself and your connection to the West End.
Originally from Australia, I moved into the West End at the beginning of 2021 and had no idea just how important my connection to nature would become until the pandemic forced me, along with many others, to pause our lives, pivot our careers and reignite our passion for the simple things in life. Finally, I had time to literally stop and smell the roses. The moments spent out in nature in the spring and summer of 2020 are some of my fondest memories of Vancouver. Exploring Stanley Park, Lost Lagoon, Beaver Lake, the best of the West End Neighborhoods, walking the Seawall and of course, the Rose Garden in full bloom.
As an outsider looking in, the history is vast, the vibrancy and diversity of the West End is abundant. I often ask friends, co-workers, and neighbours to share stories about the West End “back in the day”. Whilst some quickly say that over the years “nothing has really changed” others are swift to comment on the rapid decline of the beach environment particularly over the last two to three years. They reminisce about relaxing days at the beach and the sense of community they once felt. I live on Beach Avenue; I love these beaches and coming from firsthand experience, people need to reconnect with nature! It can change your whole life. These beaches are our safe haven and everybody should be able to access them to enjoy the activities they love.
2. What is ‘A Beach for Everyone’ and what was its inspiration?
Through education and raising awareness about the positive effects of spending more time outdoors to enjoy and listen to the natural sounds, we encourage everyone to take a break, slow down and unplug from technology. Being able to peacefully access the places we love is something we take seriously, and our organization is proud to protect and preserve these spaces so that everyone can enjoy themselves and reap the benefits for our health and well-being. People using the beach should be respectful of the environment, fellow beach-goers, and local residents. We all come to the beach for different reasons, and it is important to be aware of the bylaws and how excessive noise due to loud, amplified music, alcohol-fuelled parties, and disorderly conduct can disrupt others and their experience of being in nature to enjoy nature. While there will always be pre-planned events and deviations from this philosophy, we aim to work with decision-making bodies to improve the beach experience for all beach goers.
3. Tell us about the survey you conducted recently.
We surveyed almost 250 West End residents to learn more about their attitudes towards our beaches. Over 48 percent of those that participated responded that they live within one to three blocks of the beach. Regarding personal safety, 64.6 percent of people said they generally feel safe at Sunset Beach while English Bay trails a little behind at 61.3 percent for safety. Although this survey focused on attitudes towards Sunset Beach and English Bay – many people named Third Beach as their favorite!
One of the interesting metrics we measured was how likely people would be to recommend our beaches to a friend. This is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and is a measure of customer loyalty and satisfaction, typically used by larger organization. It is taken by asking people how likely they are to recommend your product or service to others on a scale of 0-10. NPS scores are measured with a single question and reported with a number from the range of -100 to +100, a higher score is desirable, and most organizations strive to achieve a score of +40.
We found it depressing that the participants gave Sunset Beach a ranking of -7. English Bay Beach’s score came in slightly higher at +7. While a score above zero means you have more promoters than detractors, neither score is anything to brag about.
To give you an example, Bell Canada has an NPS of -13, and we know that most people typically don’t like their cell phone provider, but almost everyone loves the beach, don’t they? According to our survey, we could argue that Sunset Beach is not as poorly recommended as Bell, but this is certainly not something to celebrate, and we would love to see a better score for our beautiful West End beach.
In terms of noise disturbance from the beach, 69.3 percent are affected by noise and 30.6 percent said they are not at all affected by noise. As you would expect, those that live much closer to the beach are more affected. A significant majority of people are not happy with the busker and musician situation as it is. Only 26.5 percent are happy with things as they are, with 60 percent wanting either no performers at all or no amplification.
Some comments from the survey include:
“The West End has become unbearable in summer months due to disrespectful non-residents littering and causing noise pollution.”
Regarding Sunset Beach, there were multiple complaints about smoking and loud music:
“Smokers are a pain; loud music is a pain; and rude people are a pain. Be nice to just be able to read a book in quiet enjoyment”
“What makes it unenjoyable is loud music”
“It would be enjoyable if it was quiet. I want to hear the waves and nature – not music from people’s speakers (cyclists, beach goers, buskers, etc). It would be nice if people stopped smoking on the beach too.”
“The constant smell of weed is unpleasant, and the no smoking ban is apparently not enforced for pot smokers.”
Over at English Bay Beach, the comments are similar, but people mention more about the party culture:
“Smoking and drunk behaviour makes it challenging. I’m highly allergic to smoke, this makes it hard when people are always smoking on the beach.”
“More of a party beach, which isn’t my vibe anymore.”
“Too many unruly people.”
“A lot of drunks, usually young people. During the day too many off-leash dogs. No logs to sit against.”
“Too many nitwits with loud music.”
To receive the full survey results please join our mailing list https://abeachforeveryone.org/
4. Tell about some of the issues you’re seeing at local beaches
Firsthand, we see disrespect and disregard for the environment, whether it be littering, smoking, excess and underage drinking, or excessive noise pollution. It seems that most people only care about one thing: “I’m on the beach to have a good time and I will do what I want.” The cigarette butts alone, once they make it to the water, are toxic to wildlife. On the days when all is calm and relaxing, the beaches live up to their world-class reputation. It seems those times are few and far between now.
5. What do you feel are some of the causes of these issues?
There seems to be an increasing sense of self-entitlement and a lack of self-awareness of how one’s behavior can negatively impact those around them. It appears most people are no longer invested in the community and some of the comments we receive on social media also reflect this. From the comments, it is obvious who are the local West End residents and who are outsiders that just want to come to the beach to party, with little to no regard for how we residents are left to deal with the excessive noise (sometimes into all hours of the morning), along with the litter that is also left behind.
We understand that everyone comes to the beach for different reasons, after all they are where we come to swim, play, enjoy the sun, and connect to nature and each other. This year we also have many tourists back on our beaches and while great for the economy and the city, more tourists mean more trash that builds up on our beaches. This creates negative effects on our ecosystem as it pollutes the environment and can make for unsanitary swimming conditions.
Other contributing factors include a lack of priorities, funding and resources to better manage the issues. We have a lot of respect for the lifeguards, the Park Rangers and the VPD but they are typically understaffed and underfunded and there are usually long wait times whilst calling 311 or the police non-emergency line.
6. Has a Beach for Everyone reached out to the City/Park Board or VPD about some of these issues?
We are building a great relationship with the staff at the Park Board. The Park Rangers have been (mostly) responsive when dealing with noise complaints from residents. However, we are only just heading into the busy summer season, and we are trying to be proactive with our approach to ensure all beach-goers can enjoy a positive experience this year.
As of this summer and beyond we are working in conjunction with the director of recreation to provide feedback and contribute to a new initiative that endeavours to improve the beach experience.
We are also initiating conversations with VPD as we understand that collectively we can bring about change faster if we are all on the same page. The VDP has communicated “We share your concerns about maintaining a friendly and safe environment on our beaches. This continues to be an area of focus for us, even as our resources are stretched. To that end, we have again fielded beach patrol units over the course of the summer.”
7. Do you sense a lack of respect for our beaches/urban environment?
More people seem to have lost that sense of respect. Let’s be honest, we can all tolerate disorder to a certain point; no one and nothing is perfect. However, we feel that without enforcing a level of respectful behavior, we are getting close to a tipping point as things have declined rapidly over the past few years.
At A Beach for Everyone, we aim to create a respectful beach environment, so that everyone can enjoy themselves on our beaches. We strongly believe that everyone should respect the environment, their fellow beachgoers, and the local residents.
Since the beginning of the pandemic with people being pushed to spend more time outdoors (this should have been a good thing) we have seen an increase in excessive noise due to loud, amplified music, alcohol-fueled parties, and disorderly conduct on our beaches and in our parks.
While we understand not everyone comes to the beach to enjoy quiet time and recharge, what about fellow beachgoers that are there to unwind, de-stress, and strengthen their connection with nature?
Kindness is free and respect is perceptive. To influence change, it all starts with ourselves. When we treat others with respect, others will respect us. At the very least, we can try and lead by example.
Let’s be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We would love to involve and engage the local community. This is where our idea for the Beach Ambassador Program was born. We aim to build a community of engaged volunteers who strive to improve local beach culture to ensure our beaches and parks are for everyone. Education is key for our team. The beach ambassadors strive to ensure beachgoers are aware of the benefits of being in nature to experience nature and natural sounds. As part of their efforts to educate and inform, they also help keep our natural environments clean and pristine, along with promoting the beach as a safe haven. Not only are our ambassadors here to ensure you have a great experience at our beaches and parks, but they are also local residents that can offer useful suggestions and information for beachgoers.
We are here to influence change, our ambassadors would also be able to keep an eye out for people in distress, particularly involving drug use. Iif we had more people patrolling the beach, potentially threatening situations could be avoided. You can find out more about our ambassador program or apply here https://abeachforeveryone.org/
8. What’s needed at area beaches? Enforcement? Education?
We can’t really understand what is the point of the bylaws if they are not enforced. Yes, there is a bit of signage, but have you really noticed it? What If the Park Board implemented some better measures – starting with signs to remind beachgoers of things like music is welcome, but keep your volume down and no amplification? Whilst saying NO to busking at any time doesn’t seem the best practice, perhaps there could be a designated busker area with select times?
As it stands now, with no regulation, the Park Rangers are sometimes reluctant to shut it down or the police come in midway before things escalate. Other times it is left to the residents to approach the amplified buskers, and they risk becoming a part of the act or the crowd enjoys the animosity of a confrontation.
Having our ambassadors on the beach to help raise awareness and provide education so that the beach is a place for everyone!
We can’t wait to see you on the beach!
WE ASKED YOU – AND YOU SAID …
The West End Journal asked on Facebook: “Do you feel safe at local beaches? What would you like to see done? Is there a better way to handle this situation? Here we present a handful of your excellent responses!
Mary-Jane Holjak: How about removing trouble makers only? Why should I have to go home to my hot apartment?
Jocelan Tracey: The best thing about the pandemic was the quiet streets. I say bring on the curfew. It’s really bad in the summer!!
Codi Marie: People complain “yeah it sucks” but you live in a heavy populated city next to one of the nicer beaches around. Also the pandemic had asked us to go outside to the beach to drink and hang with friends and it’s free. Y’all just ageing yourself with these comments.
Robyn Post: I live at Beach and Jervis and after 12 years in a beautiful ocean front condo I have come to dread summer and desperately want to move. There are just too many people. What is particularly distressing is that in the last few years Sunset Beach Bowl (large grassy area to the west of the concession) has become a protest site. There are people burning fires on the beach, homeless people with drug and mental issues, young people partying, moronic fools doing ridiculous things to call attention to themselves (such as noisy motorized bicycles with loud music blaring, twirling batons with fire on the ends, walking exotic cats, etc). It is starting to look like Venice Beach. It’s awful and the city does nothing to enforce noise and other bylaws. Even after the 10pm curfew they continue to party. The police force is stretched too thin. We need new civic leadership
Kathy Watt: Definitely should empty the beach at 10 p.m. The young people can go to the bars to party on
Lisa Mallet: I think that it is awesome that people are returning and congregating, especially on the beaches and yes there has to be some security and regulations. And for all of those that live near the beach that do nothing but complain about the noise should perhaps move out or at least further
Al Parslan: Cops need to enforce the No Smoking in parks rule (regardless of whether it is tobacco or weed) and leave people who are peacefully watching the sunset alone. Change the stupid by law to 11PM if needed so they won’t use that as an excuse to harrass people.
David Walsh: I mean you don’t exactly need to go to the beach to see people openly doing drugs in Vancouver. Saying that I haven’t seen people smoking anything other than weed at the beach on a Friday night in the past. Maybe things have changed? But yes I feel safe, no I don’t think anything needs to be done. Once people clean their mess and are respectful of others around them, I don’t see an issue.
Dallas Rogers: I’ve lived a couple blocks away from English Bay for 9 years now. Even though it gets rowdy down there in the summertime, it still feels like one of the safest places in the entire city. I think they need to adjust the closing time till 11p.m. and focus more events in the area. The vast majority of people drinking down there are playing sports or peacefully watching the sunset with their friends. It’s amazing to be able to go down in the evening after work to see everyone enjoying themselves outside
You can check out the full article > A CLOSER LOOK — The West End Journal