Russian River Scenic

New rules aimed at reducing impacts on Russian River and riverside neighborhoods

To help reduce visitor impacts on Russian River parks and neighborhoods, Sonoma County Regional Parks is regulating alcohol possession and commercial bus access at Steelhead and Sunset beaches from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Bus operators will need to obtain an advance reservation before dropping off or picking up weekend passengers at the popular beaches. Two bus reservations will be issued for each Saturday, Sunday and holiday through the summer. Commercial buses without reservations will not be allowed in the parks.  

Regional Parks also is prohibiting the possession of alcohol on the beaches daily throughout the summer. Visitors with unopened containers of alcohol will be asked to return them to their cars or to leave the beach. Visitors with open containers will be asked to pour out the contents. Violations may lead to misdemeanor citations, court appearances and fines.

The restrictions follow a significant increase in river use in recent years. The increased visitation led to numerous complaints and observations of public intoxication, underage drinking, traffic congestion, parking violations, littering, human waste and other safety and environmental impacts.

“We're blessed to have the Russian River running through Sonoma County. It's a special destination for locals as well as visitors from all over Northern California,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose Fifth District includes the lower Russian River. “But our river parks and neighborhoods can’t sustain the crowds and partying that had become typical on summer weekends. These new rules will help protect the safety of our guests, our communities and our river.”

Regional Parks banned alcohol possession at Forestville River Access in 2015 in response to similar issues. The change resulted in a marked decrease in nuisance reports. Alcohol is also prohibited at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach and Guerneville River Park.  

Information about the alcohol rules at Steelhead and Sunset beaches will be posted in parking areas, along beach trails and at local businesses serving beachgoers. Parks staff will frequent the beaches on weekends to further inform visitors and enforce the rule.

Regional Parks also is asking river visitors to lessen their environmental impacts by using the parks’ garbage and recycling bins or packing out their trash and by not discarding their flotation devices on beaches.  

Information about the bus reservation program has been shared with Bay Area bus operators. The bus reservation fee is $100 per day, and the first-come first-served reservations can be made by contacting Regional Parks’ main office at 707-565-2041 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or emailing parks@sonoma county.org. Requests can take up to three business days to process.

Park rangers, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers will collaborate on public safety enforcement in the Russian River corridor throughout the summer.

— Submitted by Sonoma County Regional Parks

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