Mar 30, 2010 2:09 PM by Melissa Canone
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A ban on alcohol along popular canoeing
and rafting rivers in south Mississippi's Pike County is illegal,
the attorney for two outfitting business told the state Supreme
Court on Tuesday.
Alfred L. Felder of McComb, representing Ronnie Perry of Gator's
Tubing and Wendy Ryals of Dogwood Tube Rental, argued to the
Supreme Court that supervisors improperly mixed two state statutes,
one concerning drinks with more than 5 percent alcohol and one
concerning drinks with less than 5 percent.
"Supervisors have taken upon themselves in an ordinance to ban
both alcohol and beer. There simply is no authority for that,"
The attorney for Pike County disagreed, and said "rowdy
drunks" from Louisiana and other places have been a horrible
problem on the rivers. Pike County in 2008 banned the sale and
possession of alcohol on heavily used stretches of the Bogue Chitto
River and Topisaw Creek.
The county has cited attorney general opinions giving
supervisors wide latitude in restricting sale of beer and
prohibiting consumption on public property. It also claimed
hundreds of alcohol arrests have been made and there have been
numerous injuries and several deaths.
"We've had hordes and hordes of people from New Orleans, Baton
Rouge, Bogalusa and other places who get on Interstate 55 ... and
10 miles east of McComb find the Bogue Chitto River," county
attorney Wayne Dowdy told the court.
Dowdy said there have been complaints of public drunkenness,
fighting, nudity and underage drinking among floating enthusiasts
along the popular waterways.
"We have had a huge number of arrests. We've had landowners
asking people to leave their sand bars and being assaulted by
groups of rowdy drunks," Dowdy said.
Over the years, he said the county has gone to taxpayer expense
to keep the peace by bringing in more deputies and wildlife
Dowdy said state law clearly allows counties to pass ordinances
that protect the public health and safety, and that includes ban on
beer and alcohol.
Felder said the ban impacts thousands of dollars that are spent
by tourists along the river during holiday periods and other times
over a 12-13 week peak season.
"If the citizens of Pike County don't want alcohol out there
then let them vote it out," Felder said.
The ordinance applies to the Bogue Chitto River from Holmesville
to the Bogue Chitto Water Park, and Topisaw Creek from Leatherwood
Road to the Bogue Chitto River.