The Santa Barbara County Parks Dept. held a public hearing yesterday to debate the future of alcohol consumption at two popular local parks.

In response to a noticeable increase in alcohol-related incidents in the parks over the last two years, the Parks Dept. has proposed an alcohol ban at both Arroyo Burro County Beach Park and Rocky Nook County Park. Their recommendation will go on to the County Board of Supervisors, which ultimately has the final decision in the matter. If pushed through, the recommended restrictions will eventually translate into a county ordinance.

Santa Barbara County Communications Director William Boyer said that the process is still in its early phases and that public input is a valuable part of that process.

“We are very early in the process,” Boyer said. “The hearing [was] public, and if the recommendation is accepted, the Board of Supervisors hearing – which is when the decisions are made – will also be public.”

County officials are not proposing a comprehensive ban on alcohol, however. According to officials, under their recommendation, groups may still apply for an alcohol permit. This will provide a system for holding troublemaking beach and park goers responsible for their actions, County Parks Dept. Director Daniel Hernandez said.

These purposed permits might even cite a “designated, responsible non-drinker,” Hernandez said.

A similar restriction was implemented in 2005 at Montecito’s Butterfly Beach, where intoxicated beachgoers were allegedly bothering local residents. Like Butterfly Beach, both Arroyo Burro and Rocky Nook Parks are situated next to affluent neighborhoods.

The SB Sheriff’s Dept. has reported that since the restriction at Butterfly Beach took effect, the number of reported incidents has gone down significantly.

Another similar ban was recently implemented at Pacific Beach in San Diego County. The ban has prompted some outcry from local residents – something not yet seen in force from Santa Barbara beach-boozers. Fourth-year UC San Diego psychology major Megan Drescher said UCSD students have tried to repeal the ban, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

“A public petition has circulated to stop the ban, getting nearly 46,000 signatures,” Drescher said. “But not enough of these signatures were determined valid, so the ban stays.”

While no discussion of the possible consequences for breaking the potential ban at Arroyo Burro and Rocky Nook has occurred, if SB County decides to adopt San Diego County’s stance, a $250 fine and/or six months in jail could await any who decide not to abide by the rules.