Strong opposition to alcohol in parks

Almost 70 people attended a public hearing on a request to allow alcohol in Vandalia parks for certain events, and almost all of them voiced strong opposition to the idea.
Vandalia Park District commissioners held the hearing in the Vandalia Elementary School Little Theater last Thursday to get public comments after they were approached about allowing alcohol at adult softball tournaments.
That request was the latest of several such requests, including ones for special events like military re-enactments, commissioners said at their March meeting.
Commissioner Brian Stout conducted the hearing, saying in his opening statement, “We, as a board, are approaching this with an open mind.”
He said that the park board has been told by its insurance carrier that the district would not incur any additional costs by allowing alcohol in the parks, and that the board is still getting clarification from the city on some legal issues, such as what is considered city right of way.
The Rev. Tom Farris was the first to speak on the issue.
“I’m thinking about the health and welfare of our community,” he said. “We (already) have plenty of places (to drink alcohol).”
Allowing alcohol in the parks, he said, is “going in the wrong direction. Alcohol has caused a lot of problems with families.
“What are we trying to do (here)? I stand opposed to it,” Farris said.
Kelly Klein voiced her support for the pool project, and encouraged others to get involved in the entire park operations, not just turn out for events such as the public hearing.
“It’s sad that it takes the mention of liquor” for residents to get involved, Klein said.
The Rev. Robert Weaver also voiced opposition to the request. “We don’t need to go in that direction.
“I just don’t think it’s going to add anything to our parks,” Weaver said.
He said that while some people want to be allowed to have alcohol at public events in the park, that could deter some people from attending such events.
Jean Stombaugh, who heads up a committee that maintains flower beds along the Lincoln Loop Walking Trail, said she, too, is opposed to alcohol in the parks.
“The park is more for the children,” Stombaugh said.
“It’s disconcerting that they can’t play softball without alcohol,” she said.
Howard White said he sees this issue as “a slippery slope.”
If the park board allows alcohol for certain activities, “there’s a good chance it will be enlarged in the future.”
Robert Carter agreed with White. “You kind of give in and one thing leads to another,” he said.
Melvin Huber said he feels the same way. “If it’s allowed, we’re taking the first step.”
John Ashdown, executive director of the Family YMCA of Fayette County, said that he has seen “people get upset at a call sober.” With alcohol, he said, “that could increase.”
Also, he said, softball players who drink alcohol can become impaired and more susceptible to injury.
The Rev. Carl Rhodes said that he has lived in numerous communities where alcohol is allowed in parks. “What I’ve witnessed is that it’s not worth the headaches.
“They can drink at the bar, drink at home,” Rhodes said.
Ricky Cox said he lives near the parks and that softball diamonds have been “very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights.”
If alcohol is allowed for those games, he said, “I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be an accident every time they play.”
Dave Jones said, “I’ve never seen one positive and healthy thing come out of taking a drink.”
Support for the request was given by Kyle Hawkins said the issue is being blown out of proportion.
“You think somebody is going to get drunk every night? That’s not going to happen,” Hawkins said.
He said that nobody in the crowd was making an issue with people going to a bar “and having one too many.”
Hawkins said that he has been going to softball tournaments in other communities where alcohol is allowed for six or seven years, “and they’ve never had an incident.”
He said that he has not witnessed underage drinking at these tournaments, and that “irresponsibility is going to happen everywhere.
“It’s not like we’re asking to walk the trail holding a 12-pack,” he said.
And, Hawkins said, that if someone at a tournament has too much to drink, “I can guarantee that it will be addressed – they won’t be driving.”
Allowing alcohol at tournaments will bring in more teams from other towns, and those people will be spending money in town, he said.
The use of alcohol at the games, Hawkins said, is not like what it is at bars.
“It doesn’t mean that they’re going to get hammered,” he said.
 

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