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No smoking in the bleachers: Ban in effect at parks, sporting events

By Catherine Godbey · 340-2441

You won't be allowed to smoke at playgrounds in Decatur city parks, and if you want to smoke at outdoor sporting events, bring your own seat.

Residents adjusting to the city's new smoking ordinance at restaurants and retail stores must soon adapt to how the ordinance affects parks.

Approved by the City Council last month, the ordinance mentions sporting arenas once, prohibiting smoking in the seating areas of these venues.

Jeff Dunlap, Parks and Recreation director, met with City Attorney Herman Marks. Dunlap then discussed the impact of the ordinance on parks and sporting venues Thursday with the Parks and Recreation Board.

"The bottom line is that there is no smoking at any indoor facility ... or in the seating areas," Dunlap informed the board.

As a city entity, the Parks and Recreation Department is obliged to abide by the ordinance but can choose to enact more stringent guidelines.

"We can make it (the ordinance) be more, but we can't make it less," said Dunlap.

The board reached a consensus to expand the ordinance and require a smoke-free environment at playgrounds on city property.

At the playgrounds, prohibiting smoking serves a twofold purpose, said Grady Tyler, assistant director of Parks and Recreation. Many children are there, and the playgrounds contain wood surfaces.

"The combination of smoking and wood surfaces is just dangerous," Tyler said.

The board defined the seating areas mentioned in the ordinance as pertaining to bleachers and pavilions. But the board decided against prohibiting people who bring their own seating from smoking.

Board Chairman Randy Riehl argued that lawn chairs represent temporary seating, as opposed to the permanent seating of bleachers and pavilions provided by the city.

The board took a more lenient stance on smoking in other venues. At the Point Mallard campgrounds and golf course, the board adopted only an indoor no-smoking policy, which follows the city's ordinance.

The board decided to let campers smoke if they wish to on their own campsites.

After achieving unanimous decisions on the playgrounds, seating areas, campgrounds and golf course, the board left some more difficult issues unresolved.

“What do we do about Delano (Park) or the Rose Garden?” Riehl asked.

The board put off decisions about those locations and others. But members noted that the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center already includes a designated smoking area, and the Carrie Matthews pool prohibits smoking.

“We don’t have it nailed down right now because there are so many different issues ... this is a work in progress,” Dunlap said.

While establishing the new guidelines requires only adding the rules to park signs, the board expects enforcement to be difficult.

“When you’re outside, it’s going to be tough trying to police these rules,” Dunlap said.

The board hopes personal and public reminders over loudspeakers will deter park-goers from violating the rules, but it will turn to police enforcement if needed.

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