The Manitoba government has lifted its 23-year-old ban on alcohol at provincial campgrounds for the May long weekend.
The province said the decision to let booze legally flow is due to a significant drop in alcohol-related offences in the years since the ban was introduced. Six Manitoba provincial parks banned drinking on the Victoria Day weekend beginning in 1995. The ban was later expanded to all provincial park campsites.
“We know that the majority of Manitobans want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, and are responsible consumers of alcohol, so we are facilitating that,” Manitoba Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires told reporters on Tuesday.
Manitoba’s alcohol-free camping rules were brought in to discourage rowdy behaviour on camp sites.
Thom Pepin and Janie Ramsdale have been camping for more than 50 years. They remember some guests getting out of hand before the ban.
“Back in the 1970s, it was very wild and crazy,” Ramsdale told CTV Winnipeg. “People partying and beer bottles all over picnic tables and such. It was pretty wild, so I can see why they implemented the restrictions.”
The province said booze-free camping bays will be available at Birds Hill and Grand Beach provincial parks. Campers will continue to be banned from walking around parks with open alcohol containers, and from bringing booze to the beach.
Squires said the province will be monitoring incidents at its campgrounds over the long weekend, and factoring that data into a re-evaluation of its alcohol policy.
Pepin said he hopes long weekend campers will use common sense if they choose to indulge.
“I’d have a beer. No problem,” he said. “But I think people should show their respect anyway and shut it down at some point.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Sarah Plowman