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Tigard bans alcohol in some parks

Supporters hope it will cut down on alcohol abuse in the downtown area

TIGARD - You've got one day left if you want to enjoy a beer or other alcoholic beverage in some selected city parks before a new ordinance goes into effect July 1 banning its consumption.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 on an ordinance eliminating alcohol use in Fanno Creek Park, Main Street Park, Liberty Park and Commercial Park.

The fact that they are all located in the vicinity of downtown Tigard is not coincidental.

Police, other city employees, local business people and visitors to the area have all encountered problems with vagrants abusing alcohol over the years.

Some feel the situation is exacerbated by the close proximity of two businesses - Labor Ready, which provides workers for temporary jobs and attracts homeless people, and the Tigard Liquor Store.

At Tuesday's meeting, Public Works Supervisor Dennis Koellermeier and Assistant Police Chief Alan Orr were on hand to address the issue and answer questions.

Council President Nick Wilson said, 'What I don't want to do is make responsible people outlaws. What we have is a homeless problem. I would like to give you the tools to deal with it. I think something should be done.'

Councilor Sydney Sherwood, who is director of the Good Neighbor Center, added, 'Chronic homelessness is a real problem.'

According to Sherwood, a count of homeless people in Washington County in January tallied more than 100 in Tigard and 1,000-plus in the county.

She pointed out that until there are places to house them, the problem will remain.

But Councilor Tom Woodruff said, 'Alcohol is part of the problem.'

Orr responded, 'We have a particular problem in a particular area (and this will help us deal with it).'

Mayor Craig Dirksen agreed, 'It gives us a tool to deal with it.'

Councilor Sally Harding suggested that the ordinance should be revisited as soon as 90 days and that the city should look into amending its open-container law.

The council decided to declare an emergency in approving the ordinance, making it effective July 1 instead of 30 days after its passage.

Violators can expect to have their alcohol confiscated and can be fined up to $600 for their first violation.

Alcohol will continue to be allowed in other city parks, but people cannot be intoxicated. The sale of beer or wine in city parks will continue to be regulated by permit.

Parks Supervisor Dan Plaza noted in his staff report to the council that the Park and Recreation Advisory Board had been notified of the ordinance.

In the past, many parks board members objected to curtailing alcohol consumption in city parks because such a law would infringe on the rights of the majority of the people to control the actions of a few.

The issue came to a head when Downtown Task Force members planning the rejuvenation of the Main Street area thought that the area would not attract families and others using the new facilities if they encountered drunk, homeless people on the streets.

At the time, the council did not want to proceed with an ordinance limiting alcohol consumption without a recommendation from the parks board, and the issue was dropped.

But with the May passage of an urban renewal bond measure to fund improvements in downtown, and money in the 2006-07 budget to pay for some initial projects, there was renewed interest in 'cleaning up' the area.

'What generated the new ordinance was that those working on downtown development want it to be family-friendly, and staff thought it was a good idea too,' said Plaza.

The parks board was notified of the proposed ordinance at its May meeting, according to Plaza.

Parks board Chairman Mike Freudenthal could not be reached for comment Wednesday.