Bend Park & Recreation District board members soon will discuss whether or not to beef up the permitting needed to consume alcohol in public parks. The discussion assumes there is a problem to fix, when, in fact, the best course may be one of inaction.
At issue is casual consumption of alcohol in parks. As reporter Stephen Hamway pointed out Tuesday, a permit is required to drink in the park, whether it be a friendly bottle of wine shared by a handful of people or more formal sales of alcohol at special events in various parks.
The district requires proof that sponsors of large events have liability insurance, and it charges for those permits. In addition, sponsors must rent facilities for their events.
More casual consumption also requires a permit, which is issued for free and without proof of insurance. That’s a problem, officials say.
First, it appears that a relatively small handful of individual park users actually get the needed permits, perhaps because they’re unaware of the policy. No doubt more important to district officials, their insurer says that without permitees’ proof of insurance, the district’s own liability goes up in the event something goes wrong.
As for the proposal that casual drinkers, too, be required to rent facilities, there’s no readily apparent reason to require someone to rent a picnic table.
What’s missing from the discussion is any indication that the current system has led to problems. Those who are drinking illegally, without permits, can be cited, and if their behavior is bad enough, they can be removed from the park.
We’ve seen no evidence that the current rules are somehow inadequate to the task, or that anyone has decided to sue because of someone else’s bad behavior. That may be because the district is lucky. It’s just as likely, however, that no one has gotten terribly out of line after drinking in a district park.
Without solid evidence that a change is needed, park officials should stick to they system they already have.