Landowners upset about behavior on river

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Ted Sullivan
Sunday, July 5, 2009
— On the Sugar River south of here, tubers and landowners are clashing over a summertime tradition: the right to party.

People have long floated the river while drinking alcohol to beat the heat, but landowners are growing tired of garbage, trespassers and unruly behavior along their riverfront property.

“They’re loud and obnoxious,” said Cindy Pryce, who owns a farm between Albany and Brodhead. “With a bunch of high school or college kids, you know it’s going to get rowdy.”

Pryce has never called police, but numerous complaints of underage drinking, disorderly conduct, littering and trespassing have been made to law enforcement this year.

The Albany Police Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Green County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, June 20, patrolled the river to combat the problem.

Thirty-one people were ticketed or warned for crimes such as underage drinking, possession of marijuana and trespassing. More patrols are expected this summer.

Denise and Fritz Hanson, who live on the river, said profanity and drunken crowds are the norm.

The couple had their canoe stolen last week. Their son’s bike has been tossed in the water. Their clothes line has been knocked down. And a floater once ran into their electric fence.

“We kind of help respect the land, and here they are,” Denise said.

On occasional weekends, the Hansons leave.

“I don’t mind people enjoying the river, but they don’t need to be partying,” Fritz said.

Suzanne Bryant, co-owner of S & B Tubing in downtown Albany, rents the tubes, canoes and kayaks people take down the river.

Most floaters obey the law, she said, but “there are always a few in every group, I suppose.”

The business, however, does its best to reduce problems, Bryant said.

A sign in the store says, “All land is private property. Keep feet in the water.” DNR regulations are posted at the entrance.

Employees remind customers not to litter or carry glass. They also leave out trash and recycling containers.

“We have no control over underage drinking,” Bryant said.

Tristan Brubaker, Chicago, and Nicki Gaulke, Machesney Park, Ill., floated the river on the Fourth of July with about a dozen friends. They packed food, soda and beer in coolers for their float.

The group was careful not to litter, Brubaker and Gaulke said, and they carried their garbage out with them.

“I used to live along the Rock River in Rockford, and I saw more trash in that,” Brubaker said.

In her experience floating the river nearly every summer, most people are considerate, Gaulke said.

“A lot of people are very respectful,” she said. “They clean up after themselves.”

Yet beer cans and trespassers can regularly be seen on the river, Pryce said.

“We just pick it up, or we go back and yell at some guys, ‘Hey, go pick it up,’ and they usually do,” she said.

Last updated: 11:01 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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