Campers may soon be allowed to legally drink a glass of wine or a beer at their picnic table around the campfire at Nebraska state parks, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Members of the State Game and Parks Commission indicated Thursday (March 18) they were sympathetic to appeals to change the policy that generally bans consuming alcohol in state parks. In the past, the commission has expressed concerns about enforcing a relaxation of the policy.
“We’ll act and move as quickly as we think is prudent,” said Mick Jensen, a commissioner from Blair.
A ban on the open consumption of alcohol in state parks went into effect 15 years ago, primarily because of troubles with drunkenness at Lake McConaughy, a popular recreation site in western Nebraska. Other recreation areas also were trouble spots.
Alcohol consumption is permitted, however, in rented park cabins or at sites operated by a concessionaire with a liquor license. No beer or wine is served at state park restaurants.
Iowa allows state park users to drink beer and wine with low alcohol content. Beer with more than 5% alcohol, wine with more than 17% alcohol and liquor are prohibited.
Dan Schindler of Elgin, Neb., who sells dairy farm equipment, encouraged the commissioners meeting at Mahoney State Park to change the policy.
Schindler said he and his wife camped 52 nights in Nebraska state parks in 2008 and 63 nights last year. He acknowledged having wine and cheese in campgrounds.
“I have a good feeling for our parks and how fellow campers feel about our parks,” he said.
“The current ban on alcohol does not keep alcohol out of Nebraska state parks. It only provides an unwelcome and unfriendly atmosphere.”
Schindler said allowing limited alcohol consumption would increase park usage which, in turn, would boost revenue needed to improve park sites and services.
He said he would not object to limiting alcohol to campgrounds and picnic areas and banning it from playgrounds and beaches.
Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, told the board that nothing in state law prohibits changing the policy on liquor in state parks.
Rupe said Game and Parks could set limits on where and what days alcohol could be consumed.
He outlined the process for obtaining liquor licenses if the commission wanted to make alcohol available for purchase at parks through the commission or concessionaires.
Mark Pinkerton, a commissioner from Wilber, said the agency’s goal should be to allow responsible consumption of alcohol in a controlled manner.