The proposed smoking ban at all parks in the city of Delaware has been made official. Delaware City Council approved the full ban during Monday’s meeting.
As the ordinance is written, all smoking products, including e-cigarettes and vapes, will be banned from all parts of the parks. Smokeless tobacco is not included in the language of the ordinance, and Hidden Valley Golf Course will be exempt from the ban as well.
The vote passed with a 6-1 vote, with Vice Mayor Kent Shafer being the lone vote against the full ban. Shafer has not been on board with the full ban from the start, calling it an “overreach” at the last meeting and saying council needed to be careful not to impose their own will and desires on people.
Discussions about an ordinance began last July when representatives from the Delaware General Health District and the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board proposed a ban on smoking and the use of tobacco products in city parks. Originally, a full ban was met with skepticism from council members, and a 50-foot ban on smoking around park facilities and ball fields was proposed in February by Parks and Recreation Director Ted Miller.
But as discussions continued, and more members of the community and various organizations spoke of their wish to see a full ban, the conversation shifted towards banning smoking products outright.
Councilman George Hellinger, reading from a prepared statement at the April 9 meeting, said, “Parks are supposed to be family friendly; smoking is not family friendly. Parks are supposed to be healthy; smoking is hazardous to your health. Parks are supposed to promote a healthy lifestyle; smoking is not a habit that should be modeled by our adults for our youth to mimic.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller previously had been firmly against an outright ban in parks. On Monday, she said she had been swayed toward an outright ban in light of all the information that had been presented, as well as hearing from her constituents on the proposal.
She asked at the April 9 meeting, “Have we heard from any smoker that has given us any reason why they should be able (to smoke at parks)?”
On Monday, she commended her fellow council members, saying, “I think (council) is awesome for being able to change our minds on the go when we hear from residents. I think a lot of people say that it doesn’t make a difference if they come and speak because no one listens to them.”
Keller added, “I think this issue, in particular, is evidence that we do listen, and that we are willing to change our minds, even when we think our minds are made up about something. We hear new information, and we say, ‘I’m looking at it differently now.’”
Much of the hesitancy from council in the beginning toward a smoking ban stemmed from whether such an ordinance could even be enforced. City Manager Tom Homan said previously the proposed ordinance would rely on the signage and the “honor system” of people obeying the signs. He said police wouldn’t actively enforce the ordinance, but if complaints are made and smokers refuse to move or obey the signage, they could ultimately be charged with trespassing if they are asked to leave the park and refuse to do so.
The sentiment of a full ban is that it would be much easier to enforce by completely removing smoking products from any area of the park, erasing any gray area by not having to decide what constitutes a “recreational facility” at a park or where the 50-foot ban length begins or ends.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.