In recent years, risky drinking and the problems it can cause has become a hot topic in La Crosse. A group of concerned residents took to the streets Friday night to get a firsthand look at the city's drinking culture.
There were about 20 people in a group of city and county council members, students, neighborhood association members and law enforcement. They all took part in a walk from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus to the Mississippi River and then back to campus.
The group wanted to see the risks people are taking when they're drinking late at night and how to combat certain issues surrounding alcohol in La Crosse.
"We're going to be looking at the environment, we're going to be looking at what kinds of risks people come across, but also what kinds of risks people take and also any behavioral risks that we run into," Catherine Kolkmeier, director of the La Crosse Medical Science Consortium, said.
The group walked through the neighborhoods between UW-L and Western Technical College.
"I think lighting is an issue on a lot of the streets," Matt Krueger, student body president at Viterbo University, said.
The group stopped to talk to a home owner; they eventually got to the downtown area and then to the Mississippi River to talk with River Walk staff. Their goal is to get some insight into La Crosse's drinking culture and the dangers that might come with it.
"Each of the past three calendar years we have had contact with nearly 1,300 people down there," Krueger said.
Krueger is the student representative for Viterbo University's River Walk patrol. He said Friday night's walk brings together people who can hopefully make a difference.
"I like to think that we're doing a very good job, but with those numbers you really need to take a step back and think, 'What are we doing to prevent this?'" Krueger said.
"It's really easy to talk about it but it's a lot more important when you can see it," Kolkmeier said.
When the group returned to campus around 1:30 Saturday morning, they started brainstorming ideas to change a very deeplied rooted drinking culture.
"It's nice knowing that we are part of the solution and not the problem," Krueger said.
A gentleman from the Grandview Emereson Neighborhood Association on the walk said he didn't see a lot of other alternatives to going out and partying. He suggested providing more opportunities for other activites on Friday and Satuday nights to give people other options to drinking.
The group will fill out a survey about what they saw during the walk. That information will then be used as research by La Crosse's Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition.