Cracking open a cold beer or relaxing with any other alcoholic beverage will be an illegal activity in Maryland state parks beginning this fall. This article which appeared recently on the website HometownAnnapolis.com claims that anyone violating this new Maryland law will face fines beginning on November 1, 2009. According to Maryland Park Service officials, the only place that alcoholic beverages will be allowed will be designated picnic shelters and only when someone has obtained a $35 permit from the park’s manager. If park officials catch someone with an alcoholic beverage anywhere beyond designated areas, they could receive a $55 fine.
Under current Maryland law, visitors to state parks can drink alcohol in motor homes, picnic shelters, campgrounds, and cabins without a permit. Under the new law, motor homes and full-service cabins will be exempt from enforcement of the alcohol ban. This new law represents an expansion of an alcohol ban that has been in place for many years which prohibited people from drinking alcohol on park beaches and grassy areas.
Lt. Col. Chris Bushman—deputy superintendent of the Maryland Park Service—said, "We are trying to create a family-friendly park experience for everybody. We have found over the years that alcohol is involved in a disproportionate number of serious incidences." He claimed that public nuisances such as public urination, disorderly conduct, noise violations, and similar disturbances involve excessive alcohol consumption in the overwhelming majority of cases.
"Once alcohol was introduced in the park environment it crept elsewhere," he said. "People were not restricting themselves to the areas where it was allowed."
In 2008, Maryland’s Natural Resources Police officers issued 413 citations for alcohol-related incidents and 32 Maryland DUI citations to park patrons. The new law brings Maryland in line with alcohol bans in the parks of nearby states. Alcohol has been banned in state parks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for many years and has been banned in Anne Arundel County parks since 1985.