COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. (KMTR) – Conditions are perfect for campers to pitch a tent, grill out and kick back with a beer, but it won’t be happening in Cottage Grove.
Since January, Cottage Grove and Dorena Reservoirs prohibit alcohol from their premises on and off the water. The policy was intended to make the parks safer and more family-friendly, cut back on disturbance calls and eliminate emergency situations which park rangers say were due to alcohol 80% of the time.
"We've gotten a lot of positive comments from people this summer. From people that have told us they've come to Pine Meadows Campground for years some have said this is the first time they've been able to sleep through the night,” Tami Shroeder, supervisory park ranger, said.
The campers who were at the site on Thursday, though, had anything but positivity toward the policy.
Mike Warden traveled from the Portland area to go camping and said he thinks the policy is over the top.
“We’ll sit and have a glass of wine at dinner or something, no big deal. Maybe we’ll drink a beer down by the lake, nobody gets rowdy,” he told NewsSource 16.
Even those who don’t drink feel the ban is limiting toward those who do drink, taking the “American feel” out of the camping atmosphere.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it get out of hand here. I don’t think it’s any quieter than when I grew up,” Tray Bowman said.
Bowman and his friend, Tammy Corbett are both from Eugene. They went camping for the weekend as a last minute getaway. They found out about the ban after they paid for their reservation.
“We paid and everything and then they said oh and this year we started the ban no more alcohol,” he said.
Corbett agreed, saying, “That’s what camping is about, you go and let go a little!”
Neither of them drink, but say the policy is ridiculously too much.
On the other side of the camp ground, Stan George and his family took up a large part of the cul-de-sac in Pine Meadows Campground. He has been coming to the same Cottage Grove campground for more than 30 years. The tradition has passed through five generations. According to him, if the ban were not established, they’d have 50 to 70 more people with them.
“They went elsewhere,” he said. “A lot of them don’t want to break the law in front of their kids.”
For some, camping is all about tradition. For the Georges, they have plenty of tradition – from theme parties on site, to mass floats on the lake – they also celebrate their vacation time with a few brews.
“It should be a given right, a legal right, to have a beer or glass of wine with dinner without hiding it,” he said.
Hiding the alcohol isn’t difficult, according to some campers, since park rangers have toured the campground but not looked in any coolers or cups while there. Next year, the Georges plan on finding another campground to visit.
“The only reason we’re here is for the kids. They expect it,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to go underground to have a drink.”
If people like the Georges find somewhere else to go, local business could take a hit. From fuel to food and ice, fewer campers mean fewer sales.
According to park rangers though, attendance this year has remained strong. Typically, Cottage Grove Reservoir hosts 500,000 people. In July 2011, they said every weekend reservation was filled.
“As far as people coming out here and enjoying the lake, we still see a lot of people coming out boating, fishing, having family picnics and that’s the kind of recreation we’re here to provide is a good, safe environment for people to do those kinds of things,” Schroeder said.
So far this summer, they have not had to cite or arrest anyone for not following their policy. In addition, emergency situations have decreased from years past.
Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs are the only “dry” campgrounds in the Willamette Valley according to park rangers, so if campers really disagree with the policy there are in fact other options.
For more information on the alcohol ban, visit the park ranger’s website.