Only responsibility can preserve new drinking privilege

Friday, September 24, 2010

Supposedly, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind government was being created.

"A republic, if you can keep it," Franklin replied.

At a press converence earlier this week, Gov. Dave Heineman might have said he was granting the public "a little more freedom, if you can keep it."

In this case, it's a minor issue -- drinking at state parks -- but it illustrates the way liberty can be eroded by lack of personal responsibility.

Rather than opening every state park to liquor, the governor bowed to public opinion around the state's largest lake, Lake McConaughy, and kept that area closed to drinking. The same goes for state wildlife management areas.

McConaughy was ground zero of the state park alcohol problem, when parties got out of hand and a drunk driver ran over a tent, killing a camper. Couple sparse population, limited law enforcement and attractiveness for recreationalists from as far as Colorado and Wyoming, and the lake was too inviting for those who liked to "party hearty."

But the 15-year-old ban isn't necessarily gone for good.

"Plain and simple, if park guests act irresponsibly, then patrons of that park will lose their privilege to consume alcohol in a responsible manner," Heineman said. The Game and Parks Commission will monitor the situation closely, and has the authority to rescind alcohol privileges at any park where repeated and significant violations of the rules occur.

Starting Jan. 1, visitors to most state parks will legally be able to enjoy a beer with their burger or a glass of wine with their steak. It's a welcome privilege, provided we can keep it.

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