Fracas highlights danger of glass bottles at Lake beaches; officals want bottle ban on holidays
In response to a bottle-throwing free-for-all that erupted at Nevada Beach the evening of the Fourth of July, U.S. Forest Service and Douglas County sheriff’s officers say they are likely to ask officials to enact ordinances that would ban bottles and other glass containers on Lake Tahoe beaches on holidays.
“That (banning bottles) would reduce the potential and the temptation to use bottles as weapons or missiles if fights break out,” said Don Lane, the Forest Service’s supervisory recreation forester at the public beach near the Round Hill shopping center at Stateline.
Lane, who has lived and worked at Nevada Beach since 1971, said Tuesday that groups celebrating the Fourth of July holiday have gotten rowdier in the last few years, particularly since the annual South Shore fireworks have been set off closer the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
Lane estimated there were nearly 10,000 people on the 1/2-mile beach Saturday night.
“The beach and campground were full by 10 a.m. Saturday,” he said. “Some young kids were getting more mouthy, pushy and rowdy as the day progressed. The lines were 20-deep at the bathrooms, but you don’t have to be rude, crude and lewd.”
Lane said Nevada Beach has usually attracted families. This year 12 sheriff’s officers joined the five Forest Service officers in patrolling the beach. The deputies were there to discourage under-age drinking and break up fights.
Lane said he was the only unarmed officer Saturday night.
He said the violence was localized and with the darkness, many visitors were likely unaware the fight had occurred.
“It’s the exception that we’ve had these kinds of groups,” Lane said. “But on the Fourth, groups came up from the (Carson and Eagle) Valley, and rivalries flared up. A spark of turf, one person recognizes another from some athletic competition, an argument over a girl or whatever – combine that with under-age drinking and the potential for injuries is there.”
In the past, bottles have only been a source of litter, he said.
“But Saturday night I saw the officer next to me take a bottle (hit) to the side of his head,” Lane said. “It brings up new concerns because another fireworks display is planned for the Labor Day holiday.”
Lane said he was not sure who would take the lead role in adopting the ordinances banning bottles on the beach.
“The Douglas County commissioners could pass an ordinance that the deputies could enforce, and the Forest Service could also pass an ordinance that Forest Service officers could enforce,” he said. “The best solution would be for both to pass ordinances that would overlap.”
Sgt. Lance Modispacher of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that he had been hit in the back by a flying bottle during Saturday’s fracas.
“People were randomly throwing bottles, it was dangerous,” Modispacher said. “Reserve Deputy Fred Sender was the one who was hit in the face. He had a headache and filed a medical claim, but he’s okay. An ordinance would be a considerable help to us, also beefing up manpower. We’d like to be prepared for Labor Day.”
Both Modispacher and Lane said said ordinances could be enacted by the weekend of Sept. 5 – the Labor Day weekend.
“There are legal steps the Forest Service has to take, like having the attorneys do a Civil Rights analysis, before Forest Supervisor Juan Palma could sign our ordinance,” Lane said. “Then we could enforce it and write tickets.”
Spokespersons for both the Douglas County and Carson City school districts said the school officials have no jurisdiction over students when their misconduct occurs off school property, if it occurs during times when school is out, or if it happens at events that are not school-sponsored functions.
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