Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Columnists assess Labor Day booze ban on river: Sober Labor Day float is remedy Chico needs

If you decide to participate in holiday floats, keep in mind a little alcohol-free fun won’t kill anyone.

Counties around the Sacramento River have finally wised up and banned alcohol during holiday floats, a deadly tradition that has plagued Chico State for years.

In other words, the beer won’t flow like the dashed hopes and broken dreams of parents who have to deal with the loss of their children come Sept. 3.

This Labor Day marks the first-year anniversary of the death of former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Brett Olson, who drowned in the Sacramento River after consuming excess alchohol and doing cocaine.

Olson’s death brought home the realities of mixing alcohol and floating and grabbed the attention of Butte and Glenn counties.

Floaters are now legally obligated to face the sobering truth of a relatively dry Labor Day float without drunken fights, without a littered Beer Can Beach and without the loss of loved ones.

Opponents of the ban might ask, ‘Why should one person’s actions keep the larger population from its God-given right of enjoying Chico’s legacy?’

But they ignore that this new law was inspired by a series of similar tragedies.

Tyler Blalock, a 19-year-old students at Appalachian State University, died last September when he slipped into a creek, hit his head and drowned, according to the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C. Blalock had attended a party where he was said to be very intoxicated.

In another case, University of Wisconsin student Nick Wilcox, 24, drowned in the Milwaukee River after celebrating the new year. He was found three months later, when his toxicology report revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.22, according to a Fox News station in Milwaukee.

Two years earlier, the final autopsy report of San Diego State student Austin Taylor, 22, showed a “high level” of alcohol after he fell in the Madrid River Feb. 29, 2011, while studying abroad in Spain, according to CNN.

All of these deaths point to the truth: Alcohol-related deaths are not an integral part of Chico’s heritage. They naturally occur everywhere and need to stop.

These were ordinary students who died, but they made a simple, avoidable mistake. Bottom line, in the context of large bodies of water, the negatives of alcohol outweighs the positives.

In the face of these losses, we have an obligation to keep everyone alive in our community.

Not to mention, police will be passing out DUIs like candy at Labor Day checkpoints.

Even if you choose to be a designated driver, you still have all the other drunken drivers to worry about along Highway 32, a sketchy two-lane road that stretches eight miles back to Chico State from the washout point along the river.

Avoiding holiday floats altogether might be a better option. Go the weekend before or after a holiday, when there are not 15,000 floaters and the Chico Police Department won’t be cracking down on those in possession of alcohol or those who have consumed it. Or sit at home and complain. I don’t care.

Cry me a river, just don’t die in it.


Paul Smeltzer can be reached at [email protected] or @beneathecracks on Twitter.

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