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DNR proposes alcohol ban at Lake Macbride

Public hearing July 26 at Palisades-Kepler State Park

SOLON– If a proposed rule change goes into effect, alcohol will no longer be allowed at the Lake Macbride State Park beach.
But the process for approval is such that it may be October 2017 before the recommended changes take effect.
At a meeting Thursday, June 9, members of the Iowa Natural Resources Commission voted to approve a notice of intended action to amend the administrative rules governing state parks.
Specifically, the rule change focuses on banning “alcoholic liquor, beer, and wine” from beaches at Lake Macbride State Park and Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area in Linn County.
Lake Macbride beach has been operating with restricted hours for almost a year because of the high number of alcohol-related incidents experienced in 2015.
“Department citation records and incident reports indicate alcohol consumption at these particular locations are presenting legitimate safety risks to the public and Department personnel,” noted a memo posted with the Natural Resources Commission agenda for the June 9 meeting in Otho.
“During the high summer season, the ratio of park users to park personnel on these beaches has, at times, been estimated at over 500:1 (based on visual observations and vehicle counts),” the memo continued. “Documented citations and incidences at these beaches attributed to alcohol include assaults, public intoxication (to the point of almost unconsciousness), littering, interference with official acts, disorderly conduct and minors in possession.”
Of 371 incidents and citations at Lake Macbride, 221 involved alcohol at the beach, according to information provided by Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spokesperson Kevin Baskins. At Pleasant Creek, near Palo, 427 of 888 incidents and citations were associated with the beach, but only 90 of those were reported as related to alcohol usage.
“For whatever reason those two beaches seem to have a disproportionate amount of problem related to alcohol,” Baskins said.
Lake Macbride accounted for nearly half of all the 481 incidents involving alcohol at DNR beach properties across the state for the time period reported.
After two large fights at the Lake Macbride beach in June of last year, the DNR implemented restricted hours, closing the beach at 6 p.m.
Currently, hard alcohol is prohibited in Iowa State Parks, although canned beer and low-alcohol wines are allowed. No glass is allowed in beach areas.
When the U.S. Corps of Engineers restricted all alcohol from its beach at the Coralville Reservoir in 2004, Lake Macbride became the only beach in Johnson County where alcohol in any form was permitted.
“The curfew wasn’t something that we wanted to do either, but by the same token it did sharply reduce the number of negative incidents we were having out there,” Baskins said.
The decision by the Natural Resources Commission will prompt a public comment period and two public hearings– one in Des Moines and one at Palisades-Kepler State Park near Mount Vernon.
Both public hearings will be held Tuesday, July 26. The first will be in the fourth floor conference room of the Wallace Building in Des Moines at 2 p.m. and the second will be at 4 p.m. at Palisades-Kepler Lodge.
Up until the hearings, public comments can be submitted:
• Via email to Sherry.Arntzen@dnr.iowa.gov;
• Written correspondence may be sent to: Sherry Arntzen, State Parks Bureau, Department of Natural Resources, 502 E. Ninth Street, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319-0034.
• or by phone by calling 515-725-8486.
Public comments will be reviewed by staff, Baskins said, and if revisions are required the proposed rule change will go back to the Natural Resources Commission for final consideration.
The measure would then be forwarded to the Administrative Rules Committee of the Iowa Legislature for final approval.
“For all intents and purposes, this rule probably wouldn’t have much of an effect until the 2017 recreation season,” Baskins said.
Lake Macbride’s beach will continue to operate under reduced hours until further notice. The beach will be open from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the hours for the rest of the park areas will remain from 4 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.