Ojai officials have decided against a police request to ban alcohol in city parks after the proposal was met by a public outcry.
The Ojai City Council voted 4 to 0 this week to continue allowing adults to drink alcohol at softball games and other events, as long as law-enforcement problems do not escalate and park users work with police to monitor activities.
"This has not been an easy matter," Councilwoman Nina V. Shelley said after the vote settled a controversy that began last October when Lt. Larry Weimer of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department asked that drinking be prohibited without a special permit. Weimer, who serves as Ojai's police chief, cited several occasions last summer when deputies were heckled by softball players and suspected drunken drivers were ticketed leaving tournament games.
The issue was delegated to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission for a series of public hearings in which angry softball players accused the police of overstating the problem.
There was little discussion Tuesday before the City Council decided to adopt the commission's unanimous recommendations. Groups that use the park will be required to appoint a liaison to work with the police and to obtain insurance for events where alcohol is sold. The city will ask the Sheriff's Department to log any problems related to alcohol consumption and to designate a deputy to meet with park user groups. The city will also post signs noting that alcohol is prohibited in public parking lots and after the parks close.