The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will increase its presence on the roads, water and sand at Gull Point State Park over the July 4 Holiday weekend. The Iowa DNR is again partnering with the Iowa State Patrol and Dickinson County Sheriff's Department in an effort to curtail the behavior on the beach at West Okoboji Lake.
"Our goal is to provide a quality outdoor experience and safe environment for all of our park users who choose to spend the holiday outdoors," said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau. "We are bringing in additional park rangers, who are sworn peace officers, to patrol the beaches, the State Patrol will help with traffic violations including alcohol enforcement and additional conservation officers who will be watching for navigation violations and for intoxicated boat operators."
Szcodronski said the partnership among agencies in 2010 significantly improved the behavior on the beach and he hopes that trend continues this year. The Dickinson County Sheriff's Department and County Attorney will again be cooperating to house any arrests and to prosecute the charges.
"We are not here to rain on any parades, but to make sure that this situation does not get out of control," Szcodronski said.
The party atmosphere really took off when the cities around the lakes banned alcohol at their beaches, sending everyone to the beaches at the state parks, and to Gull Point in particular.
"We have problems with public urination, public nudity, fights, excessive drinking and it got worse here each time a beach would ban alcohol," said Tim Richey, park manager for Gull Point who has been on staff at the park for more than 25 years.
There have been a number of different approaches over the years to try to stem the beach party. The DNR set up a check point at the beach checking IDs but people could access the beach from private property or could come off the water. "It's a tough situation for us," Richey said.
The party starts around noon each day and grows until peaking by 4 p.m. At 5 p.m., it begins tapering off as the partiers get cleaned up for a night on the town. The behavior has gotten progressively worse each year.
"Safety is our number one concern for the beach users and for our staff," said Steve Reighard, park ranger for the Gull Point complex.