Boozing on the river: Sheriff's deputies can now search coolers

CLACKAMAS, Ore. - If you're planning to float the river this weekend, be careful what you pack in your cooler. Deputies will now be able to search it without cause and kick you out of the park if they find booze.

Clackamas County commissioners unanimously voted Thursday evening to allow law enforcement officials to put teeth in a law that already bans alcohol from county parks. The problem is that it's become a common understanding that lots of people drink at the parks anyway and bring booze on the river.

The new rule now allows park officials, deputies and anyone monitoring the park to search a person's cooler or bag without cause. And if they find any beer or other alcohol, they could kick you out of the park or give you a citation.

The idea is to cut down on public drunkenness on the river. Folks seem to be split on what they think of the idea. Some told us they think that cracking down on folks who want to have perhaps one or two beers while they float down the river is a bit of an overkill. But others think it's a good way to keep the peace on the river.

"Our job is to protect the public and we do that through the hard work of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office," said Commissioner Jim Bernard. "And we do that also by enacting laws that protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

There would be exceptions to the searches, like if you were at the park with a camping permit or had a permit for an event. And there is one other important point - this would only apply to park land. Once you are on the river or even past the high water mark, the search rule would not apply because it is out of the county's jurisdiction.