San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 18th, 2010
City parks board looks at alcohol ban in parks

061810parks

Most drinking at Rio Vista Park will be illegal if a draft ordinance makes is through the process. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A San Marcos city board is considering a ban on alcohol in all city parks.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) is looking at a draft ordinance, presented by Fire Marshal Ken Bell, stating, “It is unlawful to intentionally or knowingly publicly consume or display alcoholic beverages within a city park.” The ordinance is proposed to take effect May 2011 or “as soon as the ordinance is proposed,” in the language of a June 15 memo from Bell to San Marcos Community Services Director Rodney Cobb.

But park patrons who consume alcohol peaceably from nondescript cups would not be penalized, according to City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Division Assistant Director William Ford.

After hearing a presentation by Bell at its Tuesday meeting, PRAB requested that city staff conduct further research on the matter. PRAB will view a more recent iteration of the draft alcohol ban ordinance on July 20, during the board’s regular meeting. Any citizen may attend PRAB meetings and offer comment. PRAB, as an advisory body, may present an alcohol ban ordinance to the city council if it determines such action is warranted and feasible.

“We won’t make this decision without getting public input, because we have to get public input,” Ford said. “I don’t think city council will accept it if we don’t. So, there’ll be some public hearings, and that way we’ll try to get input from as many citizens as we possibly can on the pros and cons.”

Bell’s memo to Cobb states park rangers would, in the event of the ordinance’s approval by city council, “establish an education period before enforcing with criminal action.”

Bell said proposed ordinances banning alcohol in city parks have not been reviewed by the city council in about the last three years, though PRAB has considered recommending such laws during that time. Bell said an across-the-board alcohol ban for all parks would be easier to enforce than the current situation in which alcohol is allowed in some parks, but not others.

Alcohol is banned at Children’s Park and the city’s baseball and softball fields, but not at Rio Vista Park, City Park, or the other parks, according to city officials.

“Our experience in the park system over the last several years clearly indicates most arrests and interventions involving breach of the peace are related to alcohol consumption,” Bell said.

Ford said the ordinance is intended to prevent the opportunity for small fights at city parks to erupt into large scale violence, which, he said, can happen if alcohol consumption is widespread. Ford said no such instances have occurred recently, though he said there were two stabbings in a New Braunfels park during Memorial Day weekend.

Ford said two people were arrested for public intoxication in San Marcos city parks during Memorial Day weekend.

The proposed ordinance exempts public alcohol displays and consumption for persons within 30 feet of a rented pavilion, facility, or picnic table, if those persons are part of the group that rented the area. The proposed ordinance exempts those who display or consume alcohol publicly while conducting water activities within the San Marcos River or other city park waterway. The proposed ordinance does not exempt those standing, sitting, or walking in or along the river or water’s edge.

“Hays County implemented an alcohol ban at Five Mile Dam several years ago with positive results,” states Bell’s June 15 memo to Cobb. “The numbers of arrests and medical calls have dropped dramatically, the park is cleaner and the park patrons are more appreciative of the more ‘family’ environment. The intent of this ordinance is to reduce the number of arrests and medical calls related to alcohol consumption. Inversely, a reduction of park patrons will occur due to the restrictions implemented. This will reduce over-crowded parks, reduce the amount of litter and reduce parking congestion. Additionally, the park will have a more ‘family’ feeling.”

(Editor’s note: The third paragraph of the above has been revised for clarity.)

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0 thoughts on “City parks board looks at alcohol ban in parks

  1. A typo makes the second paragraph unclear. Is the ordinance going to be worded such that you can drink beer as long as it’s not still in the original container? I have seen that rule in other cities and it works ok. It discourages drinking since you have to keep it on the down low.

  2. It seems that requiring a second container for each beer could add up to a lot of extra trash for any drinkers who don’t use a reusable container. The solo company should come out well, but I’m not too sure about the river and landfills.

  3. .

    “Our experience in the park system over the last several years clearly indicates most arrests and interventions involving breach of the peace are related to alcohol consumption,” Bell said.
    Can we see the stats for this…please

  4. They also need to ban people from bringing their “tents” and BBQ pits out to Rio Vista ! If EMS has to attend to an emergency there , it is gonna be really hard to get through all those people, tents and BBq pits. First come , first serve, if you want a BBQ pit. Rio Vista is a MESS!

  5. Why don’t the cops get out of their cars and arrest the drunken idiots causing the problems? Oh yeah, that would resemble work too much. I don’t see why the rest of us should have to pay for other people engaging in behavior we already deem unacceptable in public. If the cops would get off their lazy butts and do something about a) loud radios, b) litter, and c) public intoxication there wouldn’t be a problem. But no, since our law enforcement is more comfortable in the a/c in their cars, we all lose the freedom to have a beer at the river if we are so inclined. I’m not proposing draconian enforcement, just some. This is just a NIMBY approach anyway, all it going to do transfer the problem to another spot.

  6. Bell is wrong on this proposal. Creating more waste with extra containers only encourages littering.

    I also think that it is sad that Ford has to look over to New Braunfels (thousands more people visit the rivers there than San Marcos) for an example.

  7. Why is it ok to drink in a cup but not a can? -and how does this solve the alleged alcohol related breaches of the peace? I say require public display and consumption so the park rangers know who to look for. Perhaps the council, parks, and police departments should consider enforcing public intoxication laws already on the books to preempt breaches of the peace. This proposal only encumbers the majority of citizens who already know how to behave.

  8. “The proposed ordinance exempts public alcohol displays and consumption for persons within 30 feet of a rented pavilion, facility, or picnic table, if those persons are part of the group that rented the area. The proposed ordinance exempts those who display or consume alcohol publicly while conducting water activities within the San Marcos River or other city park waterway. The proposed ordinance does not exempt those standing, sitting, or walking in or along the river or water’s edge.”

    Way too convoluted for an enforceable ordinance. A reasonable person will not know if they are in violation of the law.

    Before we deprive the people who behave on the river and in the parks, we need a lot more information on how many arrests, were those people intoxicated before they got to the river, what are the ages of those arrested, what is the ethnic breakdown of those arrested, etc…. As much as I appreciate all that Ken Bell does, this ordinance has the potential to, not only be misunderstood but be selectively enforced. I am the first to admit that sometimes selective enforcement by intelligent cops can be a useful tool but this ordinance just does not pass the smell test and could get San Marcos in a heap of trouble. Let’s hear from the City Attorney and a few local defense attorneys who are not employed by the City.

  9. Ban babies. I’m sick of them being too lazy to dump their used wadded up diapers in the trash cans.

    The county has 8.5 million dollars in park bond money to spend. Create summer (or temp) jobs for about 50 people to help the police enforce EXISTING laws (littering, DUI, assault) at our parks. Pseudo Bike Rangers- handle some things but call the cops for dangerous matters. No excuse for littering, consequence: community service (That’s right- picking up trash in public places.)

  10. I’ll second that. We should have people cleaning up litter for probation/community service anyway.

  11. $8.5 in Hays County’s coffers, not City of San Marcos, and they already have plans to build a shooting range. Its not a free public range either, they’re going to lease it to someone who will then charge you if you want to shoot. The problem at Rio Vista could be solved if the police would DO SOMETHING. Its hard to enforce the law without getting out of the car. All it would take is a period of strict enforcement of the current laws. Once word gets out that you can’t “party” there any more the party animal types would find some place else and the rest of us could enjoy our river, and have a beer if we feel like it. One more thing, what exactly is a “family” atmosphere?

  12. I don’t know about anyone else, but every time I experience my family’s atmosphere I need a good stiff drink.

  13. I think this is a fantastic idea. This will make all of the parks safer since people are so irresponsible. Even though it’s so obvious that it’s the “lazy cops” fault for not wanting to baby sit adults who don’t take responsibility for themselves. Alcohol is the root of a lot of the problems the cops have to deal with; this ordinance would be one less danger for everybody.

  14. “We have to think of the children!” – the eternal cry of those who wish to take freedoms away from responsible adults. And only two arrests for public intoxication over Memorial Day weekend? Considering the thousands of people along the river that weekend, I would say that is an incredibly low number. We should be so lucky to have such a low number on any given weekend on the square. This is a good way to drive tourist dollars away from San Marcos because a freedom-hating council wants to Disney-fy the river.

  15. I wish we had deposits on bottles and cans. That would help a lot on the littering. It would improve the quality of recycling on different colored glass bottles, too.

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