The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing Tuesday on proposed rules to ban alcohol use at state parks, recreation areas and public beaches at the Iowa Great Lakes during the Fourth of July holiday. The D.N.R. had asked for an emergency ban on alcohol for the area this year during the fourth, citing safety concerns over excessive alcohol use, but the Natural Resources Commission rejected the idea.
The D.N.R. has since been accepting public comments on the issue, and State Parks Bureau chief, Kevin Szcodronski says they’ve heard from a lot of people. Szcodronski says they’ve gotten comments from all across the state and even some from adjacent states, as the area draws people in from South Dakota and Nebraska. So far the comments have been strong on both sides of the issue.
“There are some people (who) say it’s about time the department does something, and there’s are other people (that) say we have to go somewhere, its public property, we can use any way we want, you know, stay out of our way….it’s an interesting mix, we haven’t had anything surprising to us yet,” Szcodronski says, “it just depends on what your beliefs are and how you want to use public land.” Szcodronski says they proposed the rules for this year because of large numbers of people and some incidents where they had trouble getting ambulances in and it created a dangerous situation.
“As a department we look at this as primarily safety, it’s really gotten beyond being a safe place to be, and it’s only a mater of time if we don’t do something that…we have something serious happen up there,” Szcodronski explains, “I’d just as soon not wait until that happens until we promulgate a rule. Particularly now for the last two three years that we have identified it as a situation that we need to rectify somehow.”
Szcodronski says all the locally controlled beaches already have alcohol bans, so that just pushes all the problems onto the state beach. The hearing is at the Gull Point Lodge, West Okoboji Lake at 6:30 Tuesday. Szcodronski says you can still make comments if you can’t make the hearing.
He says if you go to the Iowadnr.com website, and go to the state parks link, you will find the proposed rules. Szcodronski says you will also find an address to send in any comments on the proposed rules. Alcohol was allowed for the recent Independence Day weekend, and Szcodronski says things went okay.
Szcodronski says things went well, as the crowd was down quite a bit. He says some people may have misinterpreted the news reports on the proposed rules to think alcohol was already banned. There were no major incidents. Szcodronski says they did have a large focused law enforcement presence on hand, which also probably kept problems down.