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Alcohol might be allowed at special events in W.Va. parks

July 27, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - More special events like wedding functions and wine and cheese receptions could be held on the grounds of Cacapon State Park if a rule change being considered by the state is approved.

At the Morgan County park, and in most West Virginia state parks, events at which alcohol are served are allowed only in the conference centers or in restaurants.

The Parks and Recreation Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking the public to comment on a possible rule change to allow groups who rent certain state park facilities to possess beer, wine, liquor or other alcoholic beverages for functions not open to the general public.

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Ken Caplinger, deputy director of the DNR's parks and recreation department, said Tuesday that many groups rent picnic shelters or activities buildings for special events and want to serve alcoholic beverages. He said the proposed alcohol rule change "merely would allow the DNR director to issue special, one-time limited permits for group functions."

Applications for such permits "will be judged upon the duration of the event, total attendance, type of beverages to be served, time of day, etc.," he said.

Alice Wright, group conference coordinator at Cacapon, said if the rule is changed, "it will open the park up to serve more people at special events like a class reunion or wedding reception."

The rule change proposal is being considered because the department "found itself arbitrarily refusing such events even when allowance of limited alcohol beverage consumption would have been reasonable and in no way detrimental to the park experience of other visitors while confined within certain rental facilities," Caplinger said.

All events will be reviewed before giving acceptance. He said the director will "make a reasonable determination, case by case."

Alcohol still would be prohibited at public events such as music festivals that are held at Berkeley Springs State Park, Caplinger said.

Brad Reed, assistant superintendent at Cacapon State Park, said alcohol has never been banned at the park and people are allowed to bring it in with them.

"People pretty much behave themselves here," he said. "Very seldom do we get rowdy folks."

Reed said people who host group events who want to serve beer and wine would be catered by Cacapon State Park.

"If we are selling it, we can control it," Reed said. "We are trying to provide more of a resort-style park," he said.

Caplinger said the park system has never had a total ban on alcohol. He said in the mid-1980s, alcohol was banned in those "selected areas where unrestricted allowance of alcoholic beverages consistently caused problems."

Even if the policy change is approved, it would not apply to all parks.

Caplinger said the overall ban on alcohol at parks, "where such a ban exists ... will continue," such as the state park in Berkeley Springs.

"Berkeley Springs State Park is a small historical park with no picnic shelters or meeting rooms. We rarely, even now, endorse large-scale events in this small park," he said.

Berkeley Springs State Park and Cacapon State Park are the only state parks in the Eastern Panhandle.

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