Guest Column: Kish alcohol ban has returned river to citizens

Editor’s note: The following guest column is in response to the June 13-19 editorial “Kishwaukee booze ban continues Dumb to Dumbest,” by Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times.

By Ron Sabbe

Frank Schier, shame on you! Your rant and attack on the Friends of the Kishwaukee River (FOTKR) was disgusting and inaccurate. I know some of these members, and they are not “environmental elitists,” as you imply. It is not their goal to have the Kish a “river less traveled,” as you opined. Also, what about the statement that “oddly, many members of FOTKR … attend green drink events”? Are you equating having a beer at a social gathering with drinking on the Kish, tossing cans and bottles into the river and using profanity? That is a false equivalency, Frank. You also write that littering and parking problems have been vastly overblown. How would you know? I’ve been canoeing the Kish for nearly 50 years, and have lived on the banks of this gem of a river for 22 years. During this time, I can say the littering gets worse every year.

Contrary to what Mr. [Steven H.] Larsen (Larsen’s Landing Outfitters, June 13-19 guest column, “Freedoms being denied by alcohol ban at Kish access sites”) writes, the vast majority of litter is beer cans, soda cans and beer bottles. The busiest day of the week is not Saturday but Sunday, at least on the stretch of river from Baumann Park to Kishwaukee Forest Preserve. If you want to see litter, canoe this stretch on Monday after a warm weekend and take notice of the disgusting amount of trash left behind.

Mr. Larsen states “a very few irresponsible individuals” are to blame. I view this river every day, and I can confidently say he could not be more wrong, and is vastly underestimating the problem. He also laments that a “resident who wants to share the silent sport of paddling with his child … will no longer be able to crack a cold one.” If you want “silent paddling,” you better be off the river by 11 a.m., or that silence will have disappeared. Instead, you will hear screaming and hollering (not all alcohol-fueled) and profanity (mostly alcohol-fueled). Be prepared to explain the meaning of this profanity to your child.

Then, there is this “freedoms being denied” idea. There is no freedom to drink alcohol wherever one desires. Laws dictate when and where it is acceptable. Your freedoms end where mine begin. The freedom to enjoy public parks (preserves) should not be denied by the behavior of ne’er-do-wells soaked in alcohol.

It has been two weeks since the ban began, and the behavior on the Kish has changed. We have observed less littering, profanity and rude behavior to an unbelievable degree. The Kish has been given back to the citizens who would like to share this beautiful river with family and friends. Come out and enjoy the river and nature. Now that’s freedom!

Ron Sabbe is a resident of Cherry Valley, Ill.

From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue

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