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County changes ordinance in hopes of keeping alcohol out of parks


by: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Posted rules, seen here last month at Carver Park, had already been in place before county commissioners enacted rules allowing for alcohol searches. Under an amended ordinance, anyone possessing alcohol on county park property without a permit will be asked to leave.The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved amendments to the county parks ordinance Aug. 15 that will allow for visual inspections of personal items belonging to people entering the parks.

The changes take effect immediately. Under the amended ordinance, anyone possessing alcohol on county park property without a permit would be asked to leave it in their vehicle, dispose of it or leave the park premises.

The aspect that already has garnered plenty of attention is the matter of enforcement; the amendments provide new authority for the sheriff’s office and other designated individuals to perform visual inspections of personal property, such as coolers, bags and backpacks. Those refusing inspection will be asked to leave the park.

Administrative searches are routinely conducted for purposes other than law enforcement, such as courthouse and airport security, and at large public venues such as concert halls and sporting arenas, county officials noted.

Under the amended ordinance, anyone possessing alcohol on county park property without a permit — and even then only in designated reserved picnic areas and campsites — will be asked to leave the park. The amended ordinance also prohibits glass or glass bottles on county park property unless otherwise allowed by permit.

Impetus behind the changes was prompted by increased recreational use of the Clackamas River resulting in public safety issues and environmental concerns related to drunkenness, littering and trespassing.

Commissioners unanimously agreed that these issues must be addressed.

“This ordinance transcends politics,” Commissioner Tootie Smith said. “We were elected to govern and govern we will.”

“It’s time to take back the Clackamas River,” said Commissioner Martha Schrader. “This is a family-friendly ordinance. People don’t want to see one of our pristine rivers sullied by garbage.”

Added Chairman John Ludlow: “This is our backyard. It’s public property and we get to set the rules to protect it from certain elements.”

“Our job is to protect the public and we do that through the hard work of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office,” said Commissioner Jim Bernard. “And we do that also by enacting laws that protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Commissioner Paul Savas added, “People have a choice. If they don’t want their coolers and backpacks inspected, they can turn around and go elsewhere. People have a right to enjoy the park safely.”