By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Visitors to Bowling Green’s parks may soon be able to take a deep breath of fresh air without the chance of gagging on secondhand smoke.
The Bowling Parks and Recreation Board is discussing the possibility of making all city parks completely smoke-free.
The city has long banned smoking in park buildings. Then in 2007, the policy was taken a step further.
“At that point the staff was very concerned about smoking near our programs and around our younger users,” said Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. In order to keep smoking away from ballparks, playgrounds, and shelter houses, the park board banned smoking in all areas except parking lots.
In 2015, vaping was included in the smoking restrictions.
But on Tuesday evening, the parks and rec board discussed taking the smoking ban further.
“Is now the time to go completely smoke free? It’s to the point when there are people doing it, it really bothers the other people,” Otley said. “So we’re just sort of exploring it.”
A smoking ban seems to blend well with the park department philosophy.
“One of our core values is health,” Otley said. “We want to make sure we’re providing healthy environments and opportunities to the community.”
Both Bowling Green State University and Wood County Hospital have banned smoking on their campuses. It is guessed that some of those employees take a short drive to the parks for a smoke.
“We’ve been getting a lot more people making comments,” Otley said. And park staff has noticed an uptick in cigarette butts being tossed in the parks.
Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz recently made signs to post at Wintergarden Park making it clear that people cannot smoke as they walk the trails.
“How frustrating is that – when you’re trying to enjoy nature,” Otley said.
The board seemed supportive of the complete smoking ban in the parks, but will continue to discuss the matter at the next monthly meeting. The only concern expressed was that a full ban could affect the park building rentals. The new requirement would be posted on rental rules.
The new smoking rule would be enforced by park staff – as are the current restrictions.
“For the most part, they respect that,” Otley said of those asked to extinguish their cigarettes. If staff ran into problems, they would call city police to assist, she added.
“This is definitely something the staff feels very strongly about,” Otley said.