By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board put principle (and clean air) above profits Tuesday evening as members voted unanimously to ban smoking in city parks.
The park board asked that City Council adopt an ordinance prohibiting smoking in the parks.
The only concern expressed by the board was the possible loss of rental revenue from people using park facilities. But the board agreed that the loss of a couple rental fees was worth the effort to provide clean air to park patrons.
“If we’re a trend setter in that area, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department.
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,” Otley said. 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.
On Tuesday, the board voted to ban smoking anywhere in the parks, starting in 2019.
“We can make sure people using our facilities are in a healthy environment,” Otley said.
Park board president Jeff Crawford agreed.
“It fits with what we stand for as parks and recreation,” Crawford said. “Maybe we’ll gain a few rentals.”
Natural resources coordinator Chris Gajewicz said he doesn’t envision the smoking ban hurting park usage. He noted the smoking ban at BGSU has not cut into the university’s enrollment.
“It doesn’t seem to be hurting them,” he said.
Park staff has noticed an uptick in cigarette butts being tossed in the parks.The new smoking rule would be enforced by park staff – as are the current restrictions.
“I have no problem walking up to someone and saying, ‘Please smoke in the parking lot,’” Gajewicz said of the current rules.
If staff ran into problems, they would call city police to assist. Passage of a city ordinance would strengthen the enforcement, Otley said.
Mayor Dick Edwards commended the board for taking steps to completely ban smoking in city parks.
“Given what we’re all about with the parks, it makes really good sense from my perspective,” Edwards said.