On Monday, October 27, Milford City Council discussed a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in city parks. The new ordinance was the result of discussions in the Community Affairs and Parks & Recreation Committees. According to the ordinance, visitors to city parks would be prohibited from smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes or similar tobacco devices in Banneker, Bicentennial, Marshall Pond, Marvel Square, Memorial Park South and Tony Silicato Memorial Parks.
Councilman Skip Pikus suggested that Library Square be added to the list of parks.“I think it should be all parks,” said City Manager, Richard Carmean. “It should include Goat Island and all of the Riverwalk.” Councilman Dirk Gleysteen pointed out that the ordinance said that smoking was prohibited “within a 25-foot radius of the perimeter of al parks and playgrounds. Councilman Gleysteen questioned whether the 25-foot radius was inside or outside the parks.
According to City Solicitor, David Rutt, the city can ban smoking on any property they own, including sidewalks. However, they cannot ban smoking on property adjacent to the parks that they do not own. “Walls Service Center is directly adjacent to Bicentennial Park,” Mr. Rutt said. “The city cannot tell someone they are not allowed to smoke on that property. I think you may want to remove the radius from the ordinance.”
Councilman Chris Mergner pointed out that the ordinance also stated that someone smoking in the park could not be prosecuted unless there were signs, readily visible and posted in appropriate areas. He felt that if the signs were damaged or missing, this could mean that the ordinance could not be enforced. Mr. Rutt again suggested the wording for that section of the ordinance be changed, but that “ignorance of the law” was not an excuse in a court of law and that a person could still be charged even if a sign was not present as long as the ban was advertised in local papers and posted on the city website.
“I don’t know, I think more and more laws are turning into dictating too much about what people can and cannot do,” said Councilwoman Katrina Wilson. “I am not a smoker and I have never been. I don’t like being around it any more than the next person, but it is a park.” She explained that her father had been a cigar smoker his entire life and often fished in the park.
Councilman Skip Pikus explained that the ordinance came about because people with children playing in the park were upset at the smoking. He also pointed out that it was common to see cigarette butts on the ground. Councilman Mergner emphasized that it was critical to have signs posted so that people were aware of the rules of the park because there currently were none.
“In discussions with Chief (Keith) Hudson, I am not going to lie to you, this is going to be tough to enforce,” said Mr. Carmean. “We are hoping that we can develop an on-the-spot summons rather than have to haul someone to the police station, but we are still working on that.” Council agreed to refer the ordinance to the Police Committee for further action and Mayor Shupe encouraged council members to talk to their constituents to see where they stand regarding the ordinance.