Fayetteville approves alcohol in public parks during special events

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville residents can soon enjoy alcoholic beverages in public parks during certain events.

City Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a proposal that allows the mayor to issue temporary permits for the possession, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in city parks during special events.

It’s an issue that’s been a topic of discussion within the Parks and Recreation Department for years, but recent attention stems from a request by the organizers of the Homegrown Music Festival.

The family-friendly, sustainability-focused event first launched in 2016 at Byrd’s Campground on the Mulberry River near Cass. The festival included over a dozen bands, along with kids activities, hiking and biking, and food vendors. The event returned to the river in 2017, but may find a new home at the Kessler Mountain Regional Park in south Fayetteville in 2018.

Homegrown organizer Jeremy Gunn said the plan is for a three-day music, art and sports event to be held across the entire park from June 22-24, 2018. The festival will be free to attend, but entry fees would likely be required for any of the planned competitive events, including mountain bike races, trail runs, disc golf tournaments, etc.

About four bands would play on stage at the park each day, and art galleries would be set up to showcase the work of local artists, Gunn said. Food vendors, kids games and other family-oriented activities would be scattered throughout the park.

City staff said it’s not uncommon for cities to allow alcohol in public parks during special events.

John Crow, recreation superintendent, said Little Rock allows alcoholic beverages in public parks except for those where youth sports are taking place. North Little Rock allows alcohol in parks if approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission on a case-by-case basis. In Fort Smith, the police chief can issue a permit to allow alcohol in specifically named parks for certain events.

Boulder, Colorado and Boise, Idaho have similar policies, Crow said, as does Lawrence, Kansas.

Any permitted event would still be subject to state laws which require the outdoor sale and consumption of alcohol to be in areas clearly defined by fences, walls or barriers with signs at the exits stating “No Alcoholic Beverages Beyond This Point.”

Council member Matthew Petty said it was an easy decision for him, and that he’s excited about the potential it brings for future relaxation of laws that restrict the use of alcohol in public areas.

Petty said he sees nothing wrong with a few friends enjoying a bottle of wine during a picnic at a public park.

“I know we’re not there yet,” he said.