Alcohol banned at Granite Point to reduce injury, environmental hazards

Student says ban will not deter visitors; Illia Dunes has not implemented alcohol ban


RACHEL SUN | Daily Evergreen File

Granite Point, also known as “the cliffs” on the Snake River is a popular summer hangout for college-aged students.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen news editor

Editor’s note: some names have been left out to protect their identity 

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers issued a ban on alcohol at Granite Point, a popular recreation spot for WSU students, on May 27 to maintain visitor safety and a pristine environment. 

“We understand that this is a change for our visitors,” said Megan Innes, deputy chief of natural resource management. “We know that change is difficult, but we really hope that people understand and try to help us out with this. This is really for the benefit of not only the environment, but the visitor interaction [with Granite Point].”

Each summer, Innes said alcohol has a prominent role in fights and injuries at the recreation site.

When visitors attempt to jump from the cliffs while drinking, they cannot identify any objects beneath the river or low water levels due to their reduced motor skills, she said. 

“You don’t respond as quickly, and you [may] not enter the water correctly,” Innes said. “It can have instant and very catastrophic effects. Even without alcohol, when you jump off the rock from any of the various heights, it can have a very unintended but instant effect.”

Innes said visitors who are drinking could also face physical harm by swimming across the channel and becoming fatigued in the middle of the river, floating in the path of barge traffic. 

If visitors sustain injuries, the nearest Emergency Medical Services are 20 minutes away from Granite Point – which has little to no cell reception. 

Bogdan Shmat, senior software engineering major, said he does not believe the alcohol ban will deter people from drinking at the recreation site because visitors who previously risked bringing alcohol to the cliffs are not the type of people who will follow the rules. 

Not only will the ban on alcohol provide a safe experience for visitors, but it will also benefit the environment, Innes said. 

Although glass is prohibited at Granite Point and the Illia Dunes, Innes said visitors throw beer bottles against rocks and into the river. This impacts the aesthetic value of the recreation sites as well as the safety of visitors, who may step on glass while walking barefoot. 

“You don’t want to go recreate somewhere that looks like nobody cares,” Innes said. “We end up spending more labor dollars to go clean up those areas and address those areas to make them a nice place to go have a picnic or watch the sunset.”

An anonymous senior biology major said the alcohol ban is unfortunate since the recreation site is a popular “hang out” spot, but she believes visitors should learn to clean up after themselves.  

Vandalism and alcohol at Granite Point have been interconnected in the past, causing USACE to consider banning alcohol two years ago. 

After Natural Resource Management staff spent over 20 hours removing spray paint from Lower Granite Lock on June 20, USACE considered revoking the “privilege” of alcohol in this area, according to a USACE press release

Focusing resources on cleaning and patrolling Granite Point has kept USACE and local law enforcement from interacting with locals in other areas, like Greenbelt Walkway Trail, Innes said. She hopes a ban on drinking will allow these officers to redistribute their time and attention. 

Granite Point is joining other local recreation spots, like Greenbelt Walkway Trail and Swallows Park, in banning alcohol on its premises. 

USACE has not implemented an alcohol ban at the Illia Dunes, but Innes said it is always a possibility if safety issues increase as a result of alcohol use. 

“We’re trying to address the safety of our visitors, wanting to make sure that they can come out, recreate safely and then go home,” she said.