By Terry Rogers
On Monday, December 8, Milford City Council approved changes to several ordinances dealing with city parks. In addition, council granted approval for an event planned by Downtown Milford, Inc. scheduled for June 2015.
Effective immediately, smoking is not permitted in any city parks. According to Chief of Police Keith Hudson, officers plan to issue warnings to violators initially in order to give them time to learn about the ordinance change. Once the ordinance is officially in place and signs are posted, violators will receive a warning as the first offense. Second and subsequent violations will result in a fine plus ejection from the park, and police may ban someone from the park for continued violations. The effort is not only to promote healthier lifestyles, which many city officials feel is the purpose of the park, but also to eliminate the trash left behind by smokers who do not dispose of butts and other items properly.
“I am hoping this is enforced properly,” said Councilwoman Katrina Wilson. “There are many people who smoke and fish in that area. It may take some time to educate them, so police need to be patient.” Chief Hudson said that officers would allow time for visitors to become accustomed to the new regulation.
Mayor Bryan Shupe agreed that it was critical that the public be educated about the ban before police begin issuing fines. City Manager, Richard Carmean, explained that the ordinance does allow park employees to approach people they see smoking in the parks, but that they are only to do so in order to let the person know of the ordinance.
“We have made it clear to them that they are not to eject anyone from the park or anything like that,” Mr. Carmean explained. “The ordinance says that only police can issue fines or eject people from the park. What we have asked staff to do, should someone become agitated, is to contact the police to have them deal with the situation.”
In addition to the smoking ban, a Parks and Recreation ordinance dealing with alcohol was adjusted. Prior to the ordinance change, alcohol was forbidden at all times in city parks. However, the city had been approached by a non-profit organization with a request to hold an event that would include alcohol. The city felt that by adjusting the ordinance, it would draw more events to downtown Milford and provide an economic benefit.
“Any group that wants to hold an event in our parks and serve alcohol will still be required to meet the rules of the State of Delaware, file specific permits and meet certain restrictions,” said Mayor Shupe. “The ordinance specifically says that they must provide public restrooms, rope off the area where alcohol will be served and have a way to identify attendees who are old enough to drink.”
Mr. Carmean explained that the majority of the people who would request an alcohol waiver were non-profit groups. He mentioned that people sometimes request to get married in the park, but that he did not expect many weddings to request an alcohol permit because he did not believe the State would grant that approval.
“But, if someone did get the permit from the state for a wedding, we would allow it, correct?” asked Councilwoman Wilson. Mr. Carmean said that the City would allow that, but that the group would have to meet all the other criteria of the ordinance.
Council also approved an alcohol waiver request from Downtown Milford for an event called “Brewfest.” The event is a bluegrass music festival and beer tasting event that will feature local breweries in Bicentennial Park. The group feels that the event will attract tourists to Milford and they anticipate as many as 500 guests at the festival. All requests were approved unanimously.