Guest Column: Kish alcohol ban: Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?

By Konrad Forman

How annoying to those of us who enjoy adult beverages while floating, fishing, canoeing and kayaking on the local Kishwaukee River to learn that we are now being punished for the actions of a small group of Neanderthals.

The ban on alcohol that has recently been passed and enforced at Winnebago County (Kishwaukee) river access points is yet another example of the overreach of government that had well-meaning origins but went too far.

Interesting word, Neanderthal. As an adjective, it means “primitive, unenlightened, culturally or intellectually backward” — as in those who toss their trash out on the highways, parks and rivers with no regard to others. But as a noun, it means “a reactionary; a person with very old-fashioned ideas” — as in local politicians who pass restrictive laws that punish the majority along with their very small intended target group.

I believe the first thing to establish is that all parties in this conflict are united in wanting a beautiful Kishwaukee River and Kishwaukee River Valley, to continue to impress and bless all who seek to enjoy this jewel of the Midwest. We have many different ways to take advantage of this great resource. My favorite is to drop my kayak or raft in at a local park, with a cooler of my favorite beverage, and just plain relax as I paddle down to my exit point.

I have been responsibly using the Kishwaukee River in this manner for more than 35 years as a life long resident. I cringe when I see the trash accumulate on the river banks consisting of water bottles, soft drink containers, alcoholic beverage containers and a myriad of other debris carelessly left behind. I wish people had been raised with more respect for public and private property. I wish these Neanderthals would get busted in the act and face a stiff fine ($500 would work just fine). I lament that without such a penalty and some reasonable restrictions, many will not get the message about caring enough about others versus their own selfish convenience.

My wife and I have been picking up trash on some of our “floats” for several years now. We have organized several group clean-ups on the Kishwaukee River and the Rock River, working with the local forest preserve personnel. The results we have been able to achieve and the relationships we have forged have inspired us to continue and expand these efforts.

However, I am incensed when a small sub-group of others now decides that the only option is to restrict law-abiding citizens as a catch-all technique. Our governmental ideas and actions should be more inspired (another topic for another day).

I understand that the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board will meet this coming Wednesday, June 20, at their headquarters at 5500 Northrock Drive at 5:30 p.m. I will be there, and I hope all other viewpoints on this topic will be represented as well.

Good ideas have come forth to address the Kishwaukee River littering problem, along with some overreaching restrictions. I hope for a civil discourse on both sides as we look to protect the rights of everyone.

From the June 13-19, 2012, issue

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