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Nebraska Lifts Alcohol Ban at State Parks

September 23, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Alcohol hasn’t been allowed in Nebraska state parks for 15 years, but that’s changing. Starting Jan. 1, alcohol will be allowed in some state parks. Wednesday Gov. Dave Heineman made it official, KHAS-TV, Hastings, Neb., reported.

While some are praising the decision, other Nebraskans and vocal groups like Project Extra Mile said it’s a policy that puts Nebraska families and children at risk.

The new measure excludes state wildlife management areas and Lake McConaughy.

It was actually rowdy parties and violence at the lake that led to the ban in the first place.

Now that drinking is allowed at other parks, some are worried that those same problems will arise once again.

While many head to the campgrounds in the summer, the Thomases camp out all year round.

“The openness, the freedom, the fresh air, the sunshine – my camper is my home,” said camper Larry Thomas.

And that home may be disrupted. In May, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission overturned the alcohol ban. It is a decision upheld by Heineman on Wednesday.

But some are afraid that drinking will get out of hand.

“A lot of them come out here they’re drunk when they get here and we have a lot of trouble with that,” said Mormon Island watchman Bill Tjaden.

“My concern is the fact that somebody will come into the park and then we if we ask them to leave that we’ll be taking a gentleman that drank and put him on the highway to send him home,” said Thomas.

Water safety is another concern for campers. They say mixing alcohol with activities like fishing or boating is never a good idea.

“That should be a no, no because you hear about people that have drowned and they find alcohol in them. If you’re gonna drink, drink on land,” Gary Hager said.

Under the new measure, alcohol may not be consumed on beaches, roadways or lots. There’s also no drinking past 10 p.m. and no kegs will be allowed.

“Alcohol is a legal product and citizens have an obligation to drink responsibly,” said Heineman.

And if they don’t, local law enforcement will step in.

“If we get calls for service, we handle calls for service whether they’re at a state park or anywhere else so I don’t anticipate that it’ll cause us any additional stress,” said Lt. Bill Keeling.

But it may be more stressful for some regulars at the campgrounds.

“No reservations, they’ll be able to drink out in the open and all we can do as park people is ask them to be quiet or drink responsibly,” Thomas said.

So that everybody can enjoy the peace and quietness of the campgrounds.

The Game and Parks Commission has the authority to ban alcohol at any state park where drinking gets out of hand.

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