Board OK with alcohol at park events

A proposal to allow alcohol to be served during special events at three Oak Harbor parks took a step forward this week.

The Oak Harbor Park Board recommended Wednesday that the Oak Harbor City Council sign off on a proposal to allow the sale of alcohol at approved special events at Windjammer Park, Fort Nugent Park and Catalina Park, which is located near the Oak Harbor Marina.

The Park Board voted four-to-one in favor of the proposal.

Helen Chatfield-Weeks, Dee Harbour, Mike Wright and Daisy Sapida voted in favor of the proposal. K.C. Pohtilla voted against it.

The city council will vote during an upcoming meeting whether to allow the sale of alcohol at specified park events.

Chatfield-Weeks noted that the alcohol sales would be carefully monitored by law enforcement and drinking areas would be cordoned off to prevent sales of alcohol to minors.

The proposal would last for 12 months and then it will be reviewed by city officials.

JoAnn Hellmann, who heads the Impaired Driving Impact Panel of Island County, said she was disappointed by the park board’s decision.

She cited arguments of why the alcohol proposal should be rejected. She said most of the people who drive under the influence don’t get caught; Oak Harbor has limited public transportation options; easing restrictions would encourage more alcohol use in parks; and any profits made from alcohol sales won’t matter if someone is injured or killed due to an impaired driver.

“It’s sending a message to youth that alcohol is needed to add to events,” Hellmann said Friday.

Oak Harbor City Council member Tara Hizon said during a city council meeting earlier in the week that she proposed alcohol sales at park events at the request of Oak Harbor residents and event organizers.

Hizon acknowledged during the council meeting that there is a perception the proposed regulations would lead to an “open season” for alcohol in city parks.

“That is absolutely not the case,” she said. Alcohol will only be sold during special events scheduled three or four times a year.

Hizon said bringing alcohol to Oak Harbor parks would continue to be against the law.

Hizon’s proposal would allow alcohol sales in designated beer gardens and at wine tastings that take place at park events.

The Oak Harbor Music Festival last year had two beer gardens located on Pioneer Way, she said.

During the three-day festival, there weren't any alcohol-related incidents that were reported, according to Hizon.

“I think we have a pretty good track record of responsibility going.”

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