Alcoholic beverages could soon be banned from Fishers Landing in the Croatan National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that it was looking at a proposed "closure order" to prohibit alcohol from the popular recreation site along the Neuse River in Craven County.
Stevin Westcott, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said the proposal is the result of damages to facilities and visitor complaints about alcohol-related incidents at the recreation site, which is located in the Riverdale area off U.S. 70 between Havelock and New Bern.
"We want to try and make camping areas family friendly and not party zones," Westcott said.
The U.S. Forest Service will receive comments from the public for two weeks. After the comments are reviewed, Kristin Bail, N.C. forest supervisor, could consider an order for Fishers Landing, Westcott said.
Westcott said banning alcohol in national forests is nothing new. It has been done in some of the other three national forests — Nantahala, Pisgah and Uwharrie — in the state.
Nearby Flanners Beach in the Croatan National Forest is also alcohol free.
Debra Walker said one of the first things she heard about when she became the acting district ranger for the Croatan National Forest two months ago was the growing problem at Fishers Landing.
"It’s become a little party spot," Walker said. "Typically on the weekends, a group of young adults will be down there partying and drinking, and then a mom and dad will show up with their kids and want to use the site. They get intimidated by the rougher group and end up leaving."
The forest service receives a "fairly good" number of calls from upset visitors of Fishers Landing, Walker said.
"It’s that mix of people causing the issue," she said. "We are not trying to provide party spots. We are trying to provide for a family-oriented recreation facility."
Although Fishers Landing is mostly a day recreation site within the Croatan, people occasionally camp overnight. They would still be able to do that, Walker said.
"The area is becoming an increasing problem with the interaction of drinking and non-drinking people," she said. "In other areas of the forest, there is not an alcohol issue. … Hopefully, folks understand a few bad apples can change it for everybody."
If the order is approved for Fishers Landing, it will remain in effect unless rescinded. The public may comment on the possible order by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail to Croatan National Forest, 141 E. Fisher Road, New Bern, N.C. 28560, or by fax to 637-9113. Comments should be submitted within the next two weeks for consideration.
If approved, the ban could go into effect as early as Memorial Day, Walker said.