The City of McCall is doubling-down on a booze-free Fourth of July, banning alcoholic beverages from the lakefront parks in the resort community from Saturday, July 1 through Wednesday, July 5. City officials instituted a similar ban in 2016.
"Last year was great," said Erin Greaves, communication director for the City of McCall. "We just want to build on it."
After years of what law enforcement and some elected officials have said was too much partying, the McCall City Council decided in 2016 to ban alcohol in all city parks during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and law enforcement in McCall put tight restrictions on access to North Beach, where they issued a number of citations every year for public intoxication and underage drinking.
"In previous years, we had complaints from business owners that there was damage or inappropriate use of facilities," said Greaves. "Plus, there had been complaints of inappropriate acts happening on the beach." In 2016, Lieutenant Dan Smith of the Valley County Sheriff's Office said his officers had to contend with partiers throwing beer bottles at them, vehicle burglaries and incidents of sexual misconduct and alcohol poisoning.
For this year, the McCall City Council voted to tweak the rules this year to allow alcohol in Gold Glove and other non-lakefront parks. The Valley County Sheriff's Office said North Beach will stay dry but it will allow boats on a 150-foot stretch of the beach. Greaves said the adjustments were an effort to compromise.
"We want to restructure some of the misconceptions that our town had taken a turn last year and, perhaps, gone totally dry," said Greaves.
The bigger decision to keep the majority of the restrictions in place is part of an overall effort to "restructure the culture" of the holiday and put an emphasis on safety, according to Greaves.
"Our goal this year was to focus on places that we would consider 'hot areas' where most of our previous safety issues had been coming from," said Greaves. "Our main goal is just to keep families, locals and tourists safe."
Greaves said there were far less incidents involving law enforcement during the 2016 Fourth of July holiday weekend, and she heard many residents and visitors felt the restrictions were effective at cutting back problems. Plus, tourist dollars were on the rise last Fourth of July.
"I know that there were a lot of rumors that business was down last year," said Greaves. "From a city perspective, I can tell you, overall, the local option tax dollars for tourism in the month of July were a record high. Tourism was very much alive and well here."
Not everyone in McCall is happy about the restrictions, though. Tom Grote, publisher of McCall Star-News said how people feel about the new rules depends on who you ask.
"From the anecdotal information I got last year, young people just stayed away," said Grote. Monica Tway, who owns the Yacht Club and the Anchor Restaurant in McCall, would agree.
"Not only did [the restrictions] affect my younger crowd in the Yacht Club tavern, it affected my crowds at the Anchor where families like to sit down for dinner," said Tway. "The one thing I heard often was 'Mom and Dad used to like to have a beer or a glass of wine on the beach while their kids played."
Grote said his family used to watch the fireworks at Brown Park while enjoying a bottle of wine. Now they can't. However, Grote acknowledges some people in his community had the feeling that "their town had been taken from them" by out-of-town partiers.
"Some people wanted to see a return to the days where they could feel safe and comfortable to enjoy the Fourth of July in the city parks they owned, paid for and maintained with their tax dollars," said Grote. "So, the city council responded."
Greaves agrees the new changes were a response to complaints but "there's still something for everyone in McCall."
"We want people to know this is a wonderful place to spend your holiday," said Greaves. As an example, she mentioned the McCall Chamber of Commerce's "10 Days of Fourth of July Fun," which include a host of family-friendly activities from Friday, June 30 through Sunday, July 9.
Grote said maybe it's time McCall had what he called a more "holistic attitude" toward Fourth of July tourism.
"Look. We understand if people have a good a time on the Fourth of July, maybe they'll come back when it's a slower day," Grote said. "You have to remember these young people—the same people some call 'crazy partiers'—are someday going to grow up and have families themselves. Then, they're going to decide where they choose to spend their vacation."