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
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.)Email | Print