Alcohol in parks passes its first test

FILE+-+In+this+August+24%2C+2013+file+photo%2C+People+ride+in+their+boat+at+the+Terry+Trueblood+Recreation+Area.+The+park+itself+has+about+95.5+acres+of+surface+area+and+the+total+site+is+approximately+207+acres.+%28Juan+Carlos+Herrera%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%2C+file%29
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Alcohol in parks passes its first test

FILE - In this August 24, 2013 file photo, People ride in their boat at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. The park itself has about 95.5 acres of surface area and the total site is approximately 207 acres. (Juan Carlos Herrera/The Daily Iowan, file)

FILE - In this August 24, 2013 file photo, People ride in their boat at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. The park itself has about 95.5 acres of surface area and the total site is approximately 207 acres. (Juan Carlos Herrera/The Daily Iowan, file)

The Daily Iowan

FILE - In this August 24, 2013 file photo, People ride in their boat at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. The park itself has about 95.5 acres of surface area and the total site is approximately 207 acres. (Juan Carlos Herrera/The Daily Iowan, file)

The Daily Iowan

The Daily Iowan

FILE - In this August 24, 2013 file photo, People ride in their boat at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. The park itself has about 95.5 acres of surface area and the total site is approximately 207 acres. (Juan Carlos Herrera/The Daily Iowan, file)


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An ordinance allowing alcohol in local park shelters passed its first consideration at the Iowa City City Council meeting Tuesday night.

By Molly Hunter

[email protected]

An ordinance amendment allowing alcohol in local parks through a permit process passed its first consideration on a 6-1 vote at an Iowa City City Council meeting Tuesday. Councilor Rockne Cole was the sole vote against the amendment.

Juli Seydell Johnson, the city director of parks and recreation, said public support for the ordinance is high.

The ordinance would allow wine and beer in a park shelter as part of a park-shelter reservation. Alcohol would only be permitted within the boundaries of the shelter structure.

Only 82 12-ounce cans of beer would be allowed, or the equivalent, Seydell Johnson said, and a ban on glass containers would be added later as an administrative rule.

Councilor Susan Mims said she supports the change.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” she said. “I think the restrictions staff has put in are a good way to start. I think it’s something that, like with any new policy, we may have to come back and review depending on compliance.”

Councilor John Thomas said it is important to keep an eye on how well the policy works.

RELATED: Survey reveals decline in high-risk alcohol use among UI students

If alcohol-related disturbances occur, the city will hear about it through the police or Parks Department, City Manager Geoff Fruin said.

“I’m not too worried about figuring out if this works or not,” he said. “I think it’ll be pretty clear when there are problems, and we may have to come back to you and ask for some changes or any administrative rules, put in some additional restrictions.”

Seydell Johnson said that currently, alcohol is only allowed at the Park Lodge in Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, 579 McCollister Blvd., and the Ashton House, 820 Park Road. She said there have not been any issues in the past to indicate the city should not go through with the change.

Fruin said there are other cities comparable in size with Iowa City with similar policies, and they did not report any issues with their alcohol policies.

“I think people are responsible when it comes to use of the park,” Councilor Kingsley Botchway said.

The ordinance would not require a separate permit or insurance to have alcohol in the reserved park shelter. Seydell Johnson said the security deposit required to reserve a shelter will cover the cost of any damages.

“We currently do most of the shelter rentals online now, and if we were to create a separate permit, that would require folks to move from the online venue of reserving this to in-person,” Fruin said. “It was an extra step that we didn’t feel was necessary.”

The Park Commission also had concerns about the additional cost of requiring insurance, which would amount to about $100 per event, Seydell Johnson said.

“They thought that would just deter people from getting the alcohol permit, and they would continue to use the alcohol in the parks,” she said.

Cole voted against the ordinance because there will be no permitting process or insurance

requirement.

“We should hook our permitting process to special events,” he said. “I understand that there are various complications associated with this, but I really felt that we should have a permitting process in place, and I do think we should have the liability insurance.”