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Alcohol Causes Problems At City Parks

July 18, 2014, 6:00 PM by Angela Kennecke

Alcohol Causes Problems At City Parks
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Sioux Falls boasts many beautiful parks used by three million people every year. Alcohol is not allowed in a dozen of them. But malt beverages, or beer, are allowed in the rest and that's becoming a problem.

Next month the parks board will consider banning alcohol at two more parks--Tower and Van Eps. 

If you've driven down North Minnesota Avenue, you've seen the crowds at Van Eps Park at the corner of West 7th Street. 

Police are there all the time breaking up fights and dealing with people drinking. Now the City wants to put an end to allowing alcohol in the park.

It may be a weekday morning, but drinking is well underway at Van Eps Park. Bruce Wilson lives in an apartment right across the street and he says the park has been ruined by what's happening here.

"I've never seen it like this here. I used to come out here with my grandkids, get my blanket, sit back and babysit my grandkids a couple of hours and relax.  And now, no way, my daughter says she won't bring them over here no more," Wilson said.

The police station is just down the street and officers are constantly stopping by. 

"They fight each other, they cutting each other. Check the records, come on," Wilson said.

In all of last year, there were just five police reports from Van Eps Park. Since April of this year, there have been more than 100 police calls ranging from drugs to sex offenses--even a stabbing.

"In some cases, it includes fights in the parks.  Just people being intoxicated, sleeping in the parks," City Parks Director Don Kearney said.

Even our interview was interrupted. 

Kearney: We just want to make sure people have a good experience. 
Angela Kennecke: We're doing an interview right now.
Man In Background: Oh, I'm just trying to see--I thought you guys were looking at.

We turned off our camera at that point, but another man threatened us if we took video of him at the park. Wilson says he's fed up.

Unidentified Man: I'm a gangster--hey!
Wilson: Why do you have to be like that?  Just behave.
Unidentified Man: I don't like cameras.
Wilson: You don't have to get in front of the camera; just behave... Go!

The City says most of those causing problems here are transients and the concern is banning alcohol won't solve the problem, just move it someplace else.  But Wilson wants the problem gone from "his" park. 

"It's out of control. It was a bad mistake," Wilson said.

The problem may not be as visible at Tower Park on Main Avenue, but residents are also complaining about drinking in that park and police calls to that park have tripled. 

Alcohol is prohibited at Arrowhead, Falls, Fawick, Heritage, Kenny Anderson, Lyon, McKennan, Pasley, Tomar, Tuthill, Veterans' Memorial, and Whittier Parks. No alcohol other than malt beverage is allowed in any park.

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