• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Alcohol ban discussion still floating around at state level

No decision regarding Macbride Beach rules

SOLON– Iowa Representative Bobby Kaufmann held a town hall meeting at the Solon Public Library Saturday, Jan. 9, to answer questions and update county residents on several issues with local impact.
A top priority for the Republican legislator from Wilton was to report on his communications with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff regarding Lake Macbride Beach.
Lake Macbride State Park is located just outside Solon, and provides camping, trails, boat rentals and a free public beach. Because beer and low-alcohol wine consumption is allowed within Iowa’s state parks, and because other nearby public beaches began to institute alcohol bans, Lake Macbride Beach became a magnet for users who also wished to drink.
The frequency of alcohol-related incidents came to a head last June, when two major fights caused DNR officials to change the park’s closing hour from 10:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.
Last summer, Todd Coffelt, chief of the DNR’s state parks bureau, said the DNR was not considering an alcohol ban on the beach at the time, preferring to wait and see if the adjusted closing time addressed the problem.
Kaufmann said he and many of his constituents were against the early closing time.
“The first issue was the shortening of the hours, which I was not in support of,” Kaufmann said. “I didn’t think it was fair for families who got off work at 5 (o’clock), if the DNR was going to close the beach at 6 o’clock.”
Kaufmann said he stayed in touch with DNR officials over recent months, but there was nothing conclusive to report yet.
He read aloud an email, dated Jan. 8, from the DNR’s Tammie Krausman, stating the DNR held a public input period asking people to comment on how to make the visitor experience better on state park beaches; specifically, to express their opinions on allowing alcohol.
“Over 1,000 emails were received, over 100 phone calls and an additional amount (of feedback) on Facebook is being reviewed to analyze and develop an understanding of the public’s thoughts,” Krausman wrote. After the public input period ended Dec. 21, the DNR also asked department staff to respond with their opinions by Jan. 8.
“The DNR will be reviewing this information and considering alternatives (including a rule) for how to improve the amount of time visitors can spend and their safety, along with that of our staff,” Krausman wrote. “Specifically for Lake Macbride: staff are working to consider options for the upcoming summer, but no final decisions have been made. If rule changes are proposed, at the statewide and local levels, the DNR would be holding public meetings in various locations.”
Krausman also noted a draw-down of water levels at Pleasant Creek State Recreation Center for lake renovation will make that beach unsafe for swimming, which would likely impact the number of users at Lake Macbride this year.
Kaufmann said as of Jan. 15, he had not received any additional updates on the DNR’s decisions or next steps to address safety at Macbride Beach.
“It’s very vague, in my opinion,” Kaufmann said of Krausman’s email. He said DNR Director Chuck Gipp promised to hold a public hearing in Solon this spring to hear from residents in and around Johnson County about an alcohol ban.
Kaufmann asked for the opinions of the 15 attendees at his Jan. 8 meeting, as well.
Nobody at the meeting expressed support of an alcohol ban, and most said overregulation could result in even more problems. As for shorter hours, most felt the beach should be open until dark.
Kaufmann said he understood staffing was an issue in dealing with rowdy behavior at the park; it can be a challenge for a single park ranger to ensure safety when incidents occur.
“I’ve heard from both sides,” Kaufmann said.
Rural Solon resident Paul Deaton said the issues of staffing and alcohol go hand-in-hand.
“Whether or not you have alcohol is not separated from the enforcement issue,” Deaton said. “From hearing (former Lake Macbride Park Ranger) Gwen (Prentice) talk about it when she was a ranger there, it was a significant issue for her that put her in jeopardy. Regardless of who is the ranger there, you still have to have enforcement capability equal to the challenge, and to me that’s important if things change, or if nothing changes. I think that is the DNR’s responsibility.”
Kaufmann said he has no influence on the DNR’s decisions, but his role was to be a conduit between the opinion of his constituents and the state office.
“If this proposed meeting happens, I hope that it’s well-attended, and those that do or don’t want it express their opinions. I do take a strong stance on the hours,” Kaufmann concluded. “My involvement is to encourage the DNR to institute the will of the people on the alcohol issue, and to do whatever it takes to make sure the beach can be open until dark.”