Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2008

New park’s uses warrants lifting of alcohol ban

June 5, 2008

Those who have driven 79th Street in recent weeks probably have noticed the site of the De Soto Riverfest Park is looking much more park-like. The ground has been cleared, and much of the grading complete. All looks good for its opening Oct. 10 and 11 for the De Soto Chamber of Commerce's combined blues festival and barbecue contest.

That is to be but one of the events the parks advocates hope to attract to the Riverfest Park so that it can fulfill their hope that it will become a destination attraction that will help businesses in De Soto. They speak of having one such event at least once every two months during the season.

To make that aggressive schedule work, some members of the De Soto City Council started discussions last week about lifting the alcohol ban at the park. Presently, the city bans the use of alcoholic beverages on all city property.

The city's alcohol ban stemmed from then City Administrator Gerald Cooper's reports of abuse of city staff members monitoring private parties at the Community Center and concern of damage to the gymnasium.

That decision led a latter council to reject an appeal from the De Soto Cinco de Mayo Festival Committee to sell beer at one of its annual celebrations despite council members agreeing with its organizers that there was never any problems associated with the festival.

That decision seemed to be made based on existing policy. But we agree with reservations expressed by a number of council members that lifting the ban for the coming Chamber event could be seen as bias on the part of council members.

We don't agree alcohol is needed to have a good time, but lifting the ban on beer sales at the park could make the difference in the success of it becoming the home of enough events to reasonably obtain the goal of its advocates.

Those who raised the concern of bias last month were right to insist the council shouldn't consider each request for the lifting of the alcohol ban. What is needed is policy that addresses the issue at Riverfest Park and other sites the council deems alcohol consumption is appropriate.

We think Riverfest Park is the obvious exception because of its events orientation and the RV park slated for a later phase, at which it would seem very difficult to enforce a ban.

But with those two exceptions the policy should restrict alcohol to community events with some accommodation for RVs. Obviously, organizers should be asked to pay an added deposit for increased security at events that include beer sales.

That should help the park attract large events while protecting everyday users from sharing the park with more rowdy elements.

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