Police and bylaw starting preparations for potential St. Patrick's Day parties
KITCHENER -- Police and bylaw officers in Waterloo are starting to plan for possible St. Patrick's Day parties.
The holiday is exactly one month away and it's unlikely restrictions will loosen significantly over the next few weeks.
Officials don't know what to expect this year, but are planning for potential parties, including on on Ezra Avenue. An estimated 33,000 came to party on the avenue in 2019. But last year, there were more police than partiers.
Police Chief Bryan Larkin said students heeded the request to put community first last year and said this year's overarching message is the same.
"We're actually continuing to call to the greater good and the common sense of the community not to put other people at harm," he said at a police board meeting on Wednesday.
"We're sincerely advocating that, for public health reasons, it's just safe to have these types of gatherings at this time," said Nicole Papke, the director of municipal enforcement services in Waterloo.
Police, bylaw, emergency services, universities and students' unions are putting an operational plan in place.
"We'll be planning for all sorts of activities that could happen, whether it be house parties, whether there is a larger event that could happen, we're always planning," Papke said.
Officials don't know what restrictions will be in place by the time March 17, 2021 rolls around.
Larkin said the region's student population is lower than usual right now, since the pandemic has shifted classes online.
But some students on Ezra Avenue said they wouldn't be surprised to see a party pop up on St. Patrick's Day.
"It won't be massive, but I think there's going to be a crowd," said Wilfrid Laurier University student Zackery Clayton. "If you think about it, we've been in a lockdown for a whole year. There's only an amount of time before you erupt.
Others said they won't attend no matter what happens.
"I personally won't be, because I have grandparents that I want to take of and I see my family here and there," said University of Waterloo student Nathan Toews. "I want to make sure they're safe and not getting the virus."
Larkin said he's been impressed with how the region's student population has behaved through the course of the pandemic.
"We've not seen some of the challenges other communities have seen," he said. "They've been extremely respectful, extremely good citizens, understanding the importance of our community health. We anticipate that to carry through to the month of March."
Planning for and policing Ezra Avenue cost around $160,000 last year, a little less than half of what it cost the year before.
Larkin said more details on a St. Patrick's Day plan will be released in the coming weeks.