Lake: How dry I am, how dry I’ll be
Douglas County State Fishing Lake is dry and it will continue to be long after the repaired dam is operational and the lake refills with water.
The regional manager of Kansas Department Wildlife and Parks has announced regulation changes at DCSFL and several other area lakes in his jurisdiction outlawing all forms of alcohol. That's possession and, especially, consumption.
Why? The official reason is problems with trash.
"Trash is a constant battle at all state lakes," said Chris Lecuyer, KDWP assistant manager who announced the regulation changes. "It seems that the general public is either not aware of or choose to ignore our 'no trash policy,' even though we post signs about it.
"I can confidently say that over 50 percent of the trash we pick up is from alcohol products," said Lecuyer. "Parties -- usually underage -- are also still a problem on the areas, especially at Shawnee State Lake. Last Memorial Weekend, my maintenance contractor at Douglas State Lake picked up an entire pickup load of nothing but glass beer bottles and the empty lake bed is another example of how much littering there is."
Douglas County wasn't singled out for the ban. Shawnee State Lake near Topeka also had the alcohol ban imposed and Leavenworth State Fishing Lake near Tonganoxie has had the ban in place for several years.
"The KDWP Region 2 Public Land managers considered making the no alcohol a region-wide policy, but we eventually decided to implement it on an area-by-area basis," he said. "I know there are other Region 2 managers making this change as well and I believe Region 5 also has the policy. I chose to have the policy on my areas for the reasons I have described.
"It's kind of like the old saying, 'A few bad apples ruined it for everyone else,'" said Lecuyer. "I also think most Kansans are not aware that the only alcohol allowed is 3.2 cereal malt beverages."
The measure caught Baldwin businessman and area resident Frank Foye by surprise. Foye used to fish at the lake, but hasn't been there for awhile. Signs have been posted declaring no alcohol. Although he was a bit disappointed with the ban, he's all for it if it cuts down on trash.
"I do like to do that (drink beer) normally, but I fish with my kids now so I don't," said Foye. "I would rather have a litter free place than a place to drink."
When the lake was drained in November, the trash, including beer bottles, etc., were evident.
"You saw the lake when it drained," said Foye.
But, the alcohol ban isn't the only change for the lakes. Camping is now allowed only in designated areas and campfires are only allowed in those areas and only in metal fire rings installed by KDWP. Also, hunting is restricted to only shotguns and archery.
"The camping and fire ring policy are an another effort to get users to respect the area," said Lecuyer. "We do not want to limit opportunities, just have a small amount of control over them.
"As you probably know, it was not uncommon for campers to make their campsites and campfires wherever they felt like," he said. "We feel if we can at least control where they camp, it will make cleaning up ash piles and trash a little bit easier."
Although it's not a new regulation, Lecuyer also wanted to emphasize that all vehicles are restricted from many areas around the lake.
"Probably the biggest headache at Douglas SFL is offroading by vehicles," he said. "Some of this was probably to be expected with the lake being drained, but the most common abusers are ATV riders on the wildlife area.
"There is simply no excuse for this and we have zero tolerance on the subject," Lecuyer said.
Foye was one of two businessmen who asked the Baldwin City Council to allow Sunday sales of alcohol this year. Through a long process, the measure passed and sale of alcohol in packaged form is now legal on Sundays.
"Now you can't drink a beer at the lake," said Foye.