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Alcohol use allowed in more New Richmond city parks

Alcoholic beverages are now allowed in more of New Richmond's city parks.

At its regular meeting Monday, the City Council approved an ordinance change that will allow alcohol in the city's park shelters, if a shelter is reserved and rented by a group ahead of time.

Alcohol is already allowed in Mary Park and Hatfield Park.

Now those reserving a shelter in Paperjack Park, the Nature Center Park and Monette Park will also be allowed to consume alcohol if the beverages remain under the shelter area.

Park and Recreation Director Joe Kerlin said shelter rentals in Mary and Hatfield parks can fill up quickly for the summer, due to family reunions and other group activities.

In the past, when groups inquire about other available shelters where alcohol can be consumed, Kerlin said he's had to tell them that there aren't any. He guessed that a half dozen groups were turned away last year alone.

Under the amended ordinance, Kerlin said people can't just show up and drink alcohol in the shelters. They have to plan ahead.

Alderman Jim Zajkowski said he had no problem with the plan.

"This is summertime in Wisconsin," he said. "If you have a family outing, you might want to have a beer."

Alderman Ron Volkert agreed, noting that requiring a reservation for the shelters will provide the city with more control over the situation.

"I think we can try this," he said. "If it doesn't work, then..."

Alderman Jane Hansen had some reservations about the plan. She suggested that the school district and Youth & Families Initiative be given a chance to comment on the idea of expanding alcohol use in city parks.

But Kerlin said it would be difficult to gauge who supports and who opposes the proposal. Because alcohol use in the parks hasn't been a major issue in the past, Kerlin said it may be best to try and address the demand for shelter use by those wishing to have alcohol on hand.

Hansen disagreed with the suggestion that alcohol use in the parks hasn't been a problem. She said some residents have felt uncomfortable walking in Mary Park at certain times of the day due to groups drinking there.

"I think we have a problem in Mary Park," she said.

After the council approved the expansion of allowed alcohol use in city parks, council members agreed to look at a possible change in ordinances governing alcohol use in Mary Park and Hatfield to see if different restrictions are in order.

In other business:

• New Richmond Golf Club General Manager Ross Johnson provided the council with his annual report.

He said the business had a positive cash flow of about $210,000 last year, with about 44,000 rounds of golf being played on the main course and The Links.

This year has started out slowly, though, due to poor spring weather, Johnson said.

"It's been ugly," he said. "We've only had six or seven decent days of golf. Hopefully the rest of May will be good and we can make up some of that."

For the complete story, see this week's New Richmond News.