By Jen Stolka |

Family fishing. Photo from pplpreserves.wordpress.comPhoto:


Imagine you are at your favorite summer time fishing hole with your family in tote. You finish a delicious picnic lunch and bait the first hook for your son, when you hear a group approaching. They hoot, howl, and frankly, are scaring the fish away. You see them walk to the riverbank with fishing poles and beer coolers in hand. As they carry on about the hot sun and the number of fish they will catch, they crack open another beer.

This scenario can go several ways.

  1. The group takes notice of your nearby family. They choose to respect the “rules of fishing” and be quiet. Realizing children are around, they decide to act appropriately.
  2. The group carries on with their party (oh, and fishing). You quickly pack-up and remove your children and yourself from this uninviting environment—a rude end to family time.
  3. Your family stays. Still attempting to catch fish, your kids are exposed to the unruly behavior and negative role modeling of your new neighbors.

Communities that permit alcohol use on public property, such as parks and fishing spots, allow situations like this to occur. These public spaces make it easier to get alcohol. The more such venues, the more convenience, increasing the likelihood of alcohol-related problems, like the family picnic scenario, public intoxication arrests, and vandalism. By restricting alcohol use in these public places, communities eliminate one potential problem area. The positive result: a more welcoming, healthy, safer community where individuals and families enjoy favorite hobbies and time together.

These preventative restrictions can range from total bans on alcohol consumption to limiting the time or location of alcohol use. For example, establish a distance between alcohol use and playground equipment, or require a city permit to have alcohol at a gathering.  If we, as a community, start putting these restrictions in place, we stand against irresponsible alcohol use, saying,

“We don’t accept the ‘anywhere, anytime’ drinking mindset. Our community believes in a culture of positive role modeling and responsible alcohol use.”

The Delaware County Drug Abuse Coalition along with Helping Services is putting energy behind this strategy and asking some tough questions:  Why do we need alcohol available wherever we go?  Why must alcohol be part of every activity or function?  In order to bring about community change, we must decide what our community represents. Who do we want to attract to the area?  What do we want our children or grandchildren growing up around?  What are the benefits and drawbacks of allowing alcohol use in public spaces versus restricting the use?

Help your community make these decisions and change local thinking about alcohol.  Contact Jen Stolka,, or (563)379-0531, to get started or have your questions answered.

These efforts are funded by the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG), provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Not from Delaware County? Find out what your local coalitions is doing. Contact the coordinator.

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