By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Continuing a zero tolerance policy that started during Dandelion Days, Carbondale police issued three citations for open containers of alcohol at Sunday’s inaugural Summer Music Series concert at Sopris Park.
Carbondale resident Sam Schroyer, the recipient of a $130 citation for bringing wine into the park in a plastic bottle, responded by writing a lengthy letter to the town trustees, Police Chief Gene Schilling and Town Manager Jay Harrington that said in part, “My … experience left a very negative impression, and if what happened to me happens to visiting tourists, I believe Carbondale will very rapidly get a bad reputation.” (A short version of the letter is printed on page 2).
Carbondale police also issued one citation for bringing a dog into the park during the concert. When contacted by The Sopris Sun, Schilling said the stepped up enforcement comes at the direction of the board of trustees because “every year” they tell him enforcement in the park is “not acceptable.” He said he wants to know from the trustees if he should give officers more discretion on whether to write citations or warnings.
The trustees will discuss booze, dog and related enforcement policies at their meeting on June 23.
After a year’s hiatus at Sopris Park, “family-style” concerts are returning the second Sunday of the month through August. This year the series is being funded primarily by the town of Carbondale and organized by Steve’s Guitars. Sunday’s concert kicked off with the acoustic group Valle Musico and concluded with the bluegrass band Fireside Collective.
Schroyer said he saw the park was posted for no dogs and no glass containers, and thought he was doing the right thing by bringing in his wine in a plastic container that his wife and a friend then poured into plastic cups. He also pointed to a Calendar item in the June 11 Sopris Sun that said there would be “no alcohol sales,” which he interpreted to mean if people wanted to sip on wine or similar beverages they should bring their own. “Since the no dog and glass container signs are very clearly posted at every entrance to the park, I had no reason to assume that if alcohol was prohibited it wouldn’t be posted someplace too,” Schroyer said in his letter to the town.
Schilling said the dog and glass signs are posted because they are specific to Sopris Park, but open containers of alcohol are prohibited all over town, and not just the park.
A Glenwood Springs area woman who attended Sunday’s concert with her husband brought “a batch of margaritas and wine” in her backpack but did not open them after conferring with a police officer, and told The Sopris Sun the level of enforcement was “a little excessive.” Helen McQueeney said other people were surprised to see police writing tickets for open containers. She and her husband bring alcohol to concerts at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood and it’s never a problem. She isn’t sure she’ll return to Carbondale.
In an e-mail memo to the trustees on Monday, Schilling said the issue of ordinance enforcement in parks, especially dogs, dates back years and in 2013 Sopris Park neighbors attended a trustees meeting after a reggae concert and requested enforcement of open container/alcohol ordinances. “The police department has been issuing verbal warnings for several years without compliance of ordinance violations in the park,” Schilling’s memo said. Later in his memo, Schilling said “One of the attendees (Sunday) was very intoxicated and carrying a large alcohol beverage. After receiving his citation, he wandered through the crowd and observed another person drinking an alcoholic beverage and requested officers to write them a citation.”
As for Schroyer’s encounter with the police, in his e-mail he said in part, “When the officer confronted us, we had only been in the park a very short time. We were not making any noise. I was not even drinking, and my wife and our friend had not even had one glass of wine, so we were not close to being intoxicated or in any way a public nuisance. We were cooperative with the officer, and we were willing to address the problem immediately after he told us about it. I feel the situation was handled very poorly by the officer. While the officer was not rude, he did not seem interested in doing anything but write tickets. A warning notice would have been more than enough to educate us about the issue.”
Published in The Sopris Sun on June 18, 2015.