Oak Creek officials consider allowing beer, wine at town parks

Alcohol in Oak Creek's parks is currently limited to nonprofits’ special events

Oak Creek residents flock to Decker Park after the 2022 Labor Day parade. The Oak Creek Town Board is currently considering whether to allow residents to consume alcohol at town parks aside from special events put on by nonprofits.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Oak Creek Town Board discussed allowing people to drink beer and wine at town parks during a conversation Thursday, Feb. 23, that at first appeared to favor allowing such consumption but then shifted toward requiring a permit.

Town Administrator David Torgler said the board previously asked town staff to look into the idea of allowing alcohol in parks in November 2021, a move that would allow a resident to bring a six-pack to the park without acquiring any kind of permit.

After a discussion about the nuances of changing the town ordinance, such as the allowance of glass containers or limiting how much someone could bring in, board members indicated they where not entirely sold on the idea.

“At first I was in favor of this, and then a lot of feedback I got from people after this discussion was no from the town,” Town Board member Kelly McElfish said. “Representing people I know that put me here, I would have to say I would not want it without a special-event permit or a permit.”

Other board members said that while it may be nice to enjoy a glass of wine while their children play or have a beer at the park as the sun goes down, they felt it could also be a “touchy subject” and a potentially “divisive” issue in town.

Board member Bernard “Bernie” Gagne said he was torn about making a change as well, adding that “things will get out of hand with certain people in certain situations.”

“Over the years, there’ve been some sort of transient people. I’d hate to facilitate them coming to the parks drinking,” Gagne said. “It’s a bad taste for the community to see those people consuming alcohol and I don’t, I wouldn’t want to promote that type of behavior.”

Gagne suggested they could loosen the town’s special-event permitting process, which currently only allows alcohol consumption if a permit is obtained by a nonprofit organization for an event. Torgler said the only special-events permits he could remember were for Labor Day and the Taste of South Routt, and those events required board approval in advance.

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The latest suggestion would allow a memorial service or birthday party to go through a process to offer beer and wine, but a resident couldn’t go play Frisbee with a beer at a town park on any given evening.

“It’s a park,” Gagne said. “Do that at home and come down and play Frisbee later.”

Torgler suggested the Town Board members talk more about to what extent alcohol could be allowed in parks with their neighbors before revisiting the issue at the board’s meeting in two weeks. He added that while a survey would be great, unless they contracted someone to do a statistically valid survey, the results would likely be skewed one way or another.

“If you walk down to the bar and ask if we should allow people to drink in our parks, you might get a different opinion than if you went to the church,” Torgler said. “You could bring this back in two weeks, and continue the discussion and get direction before we start to craft anything.”

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