Brewhalla Festival 2023 to be held at ‘lesser of all evils’ Pioneer Memorial Park; city struggles to find space for commercial events

Pioneer Memorial Park. Google Maps image

Port Moody is struggling to find the appropriate outdoor space needed to retain commercial events looking to host in the city, according to staff.

Red Door Events’ second Brewhalla Festival is set to take place at Pioneer Memorial Park this August, despite past and present protests over using the location.

“We’re very challenged in finding locations to be able to host these types of events,” said Devin Jain, the city’s manager of cultural services. 

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“We’re not suggesting that this location be used for numerous large events, or perhaps even more than in one large event.”

The approximately 7,800 square-metre park was set as the original location for the beer-tasting festival’s inaugural event in 2022 before a number of complaints forced a late change to Inlet Field.

Concerned parties included the Crossroads Hospice Society, and the Parks and Recreation Commission, the latter of whom passed a motion opposing allowing the event there.

The primary issues listed were too many attendees overwhelming the space, the potential for damage, and disrupting the serene nature of the park by serving alcohol.

Additionally, many residents see Pioneer Memorial Park as their neighbourhood park.

The city looked at 13 other potential locations for the 2023 festival, but concluded Pioneer Park was the most appropriate place.

Requests to use Rocky Point Park for commercial use have increased over the years, as the city lacks a dedicated outdoor event venue.

Commercial events have historically not been allowed at Rocky Point, because the required fencing and ticketing restricts residents entry to a public park.

Furthermore, staff contended that scheduling too many events at Rocky Point Park would have a negative impact on regular users, and cause wear and tear without time to recover.

Staff had to be creative in accommodating larger events in the past, using everything from tennis courts and parking lots.

Pioneer Park has hosted a number of smaller events over the years. Staff recommended it as an alternate location prior to COVID, suggesting a one-dollar fee peer ticket be leveled or organizers to use the public space.

Jain said Red Door Events has proven itself to be a competent organizer, and that the park, while not a perfect location, is probably the best option.

“Pioneer Memorial Park offers quite a bit of natural shade, is a beautiful location and is centrally located,” Jain said.

More than 1,000 people attended the 2022 festival. 

This year’s event is slated to run five to six hours this year, and will require a portion of Knowle Street and the Recreation Complex’s parking spaces to be reserved for the event.

Not everyone agreed with staff’s recommendation, however.

Port Moody resident Willamina Martin stated she doesn’t have anything against the event in question, but she thinks the park will lose its character if festivals start being held there.

“If we can make a dedication that Bert Flinn should be kept as a wilderness park, we have an obligation to keep Pioneer Park as a sanctuary,” she said, adding the location was once considered for a columbarium. 

Council voted to pass the event request for the location for 2023 by a vote of 4-3, with Couns. Callan Morrison, Haven Lurbiecki, and Amy Lubik voting against.

Morrison said too many events are occurring in areas around city hall and he wants to activate other areas of the city, suggesting Chip Kerr Park near Moody Centre Station would be a viable alternative. 

“I’d like to see if we can get something that’s unique to that area that they can be proud of every year,” Morrison said. 

Staff responded that Chip Kerr Park is also a neighbourthood park, and parking and washroom access would be an issue.

Coun. Diana Dilworth said she still had concerns over the number of people gathering in Pioneer Park, calling it a key residential area.

However, she said the city has lost a number of events to other cities that can offer bigger venues and she would support the event.

Robert Simons, president of the Port Moody Foundation, spoke in favour of allowing the festival to be held at Pioneer Park. 

He said the Red Door Events has been a benefactor to their organization, and has made a commitment to stay in the community.

Mayor Meghan Lahti said the city should give the organizers a shot, and if it is too disruptive, council can revisit the decision next year.

“We’re not, you know, hosting a three day event there,” Lahti said. “It’s an afternoon event.

“Staff have done their research, they’ve done their due diligence, they’ve looked at all the options. They’ve come back and this is the lesser of all evils.”

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