Responding to the series of events that unfurled during the latest event, Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors have unanimously approved an expanded summer holiday alcohol ban on the American River.
The expanded ban would apply to the area of the river between Hazel and Watt avenues and give the Sacramento County Regional Parks District director authority to institute the ban whenever a reasonable belief that alcohol consumption would present a significant issue to public safety. The summer ban would extend from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The director would coordinate with public safety agencies to validate any expanded weekend ban.
Board members convened today with Sacramento-area residents as well as members from the Save the American River Association and American River Parkway Foundation to discuss the issue and its foreseeable and unforeseeable impacts as a result of the expanded ban.
Among speakers to be heard by the board was Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the Parkway Foundation. For Poggetto and her foundation members, litter and vandalism following the event remain a concern, and "that's just from normal alcohol (consumption) day to day."
Poggetto noted the increased law enforcement and rescue crew presence required at events like Rafting Gone Wild presents the county with a bill it has little revenue to foot.
"Our big concern for this whole proposal is cost recovery for the county," Poggetto said. "If just one day costs $30,000, what are multiple days going to run?"
"As everyone knows, money is not plentiful within the county right now."
This cost is based on hours of the individuals assigned to the operation who would not otherwise be on the river, said Jeffrey Leatherman, director of Sacramento County's Department of Regional Parks.
"For example, our ranger over-time 'billed' to the event was $3,000 because the majority of our staff are already on duty," Leatherman said. "The sheriff and fire, however, only have limited resources generally scheduled on a busy weekend so their costs are significantly higher for the day.
Leatherman included the costs associated with equipment:
- Sacramento County Sheriff's Department: $21,000
- Sacramento Metro Fire District: $10,000 (includes helicopter)
- Sacramento County Regional Park District: $3,000
"When I hear the order of magnitude to be $35,000 per day, and the fact that folks may find a way around this, I think it's important to bookend this (expanded ban) with if folks do find a way around this, they understand there will be some considerable cost if our Sheriff's deputies, our park rangers, Metro Fire, other law enforcement agencies find it necessary to respond to some urgent situation," Supervisor Phil Serna said.
"I think that's the right to make sure this is a comprehensive effort, to make sure people get the message, that mass over-comsumption of alcohol on the river is not going to be acceptable."
The idea of a total ban on alcohol was addressed, but supervisors agreed it would not be something the board would pursue at this time for a number of reasons, ranging from the idealistic to the simple bottom line.
"There are times and ways of getting around it, I guess, but if you're a peaceful person or a family, I think it's OK, as long as you do it within the law," said Supervisor Jimmie Yee. "I guess the bottom line is, I will support the staff recommendation, but currently I'm against a total ban."
"I don't know if we have enough law enforcement in six counties to deal with a ban on a 30-plus-mile part (of the river)," answered . "You can pass all the laws you want; you still have to be able to enforce them."
The board will give direction to the County’s Legislative Advocate to take appropriate action on behalf of the supervisors to include in 2013 Legislative Policy a new proposal to clarify the existing prohibition on alcohol consumption in non-motorized vessels along the American River Parkway and lower American River between Hazel Ave. and Discovery Park between May 1 and Oct. 1.
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