No smoking ban in Champaign parks, for now
CHAMPAIGN — Park district officials say they will continue to monitor issues surrounding smoking in public parks, but board members are not overly enthusiastic about a blanket cigarette ban.
Administrators sought board members' input on the topic during their meeting Wednesday. No formal action was taken, but the general consensus was that park officials do not see any problem with smoking in parks right now, and any ban they might come up with would be very difficult to enforce.
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The Champaign Park District already prohibits smoking at its dog park, indoor facilities and the Sholem Aquatic Center. Executive Director Joe DeLuce said officials had been in discussions with other local agencies about possibly extending that ban to all its facilities, including open-air parks.
"It is a trend that is going across the country, and a lot of people in the state of Illinois have implemented it also," DeLuce said.
But the reality, he added, is that park officials have not heard or observed an overwhelming number of problems.
"It's not something that's really a major issue right now," DeLuce said.
That was generally the position that park board members took.
"For me, if it ain't broke don't fix it," said park board president Joe Petry. "And I don't think there's a big problem right now."
And there is the enforcement issue, officials said. Petry said he sees people smoking on the University of Illinois campus all the time, despite its new campuswide smoking ban.
In fact, park officials consulted with the coordinator of the UI smoking ban to start approaching some of the issues they might face should they go for a prohibition.
"That's one of the biggest issues," DeLuce said. "How do you enforce it? And can you enforce it?"
DeLuce said the Champaign Police Department would not have a lot of time to deal with complaints about smoking in parks.
"I'm not a real fan of making laws that can't be enforced," said board member Barb Kuhl. "We send kind of a bad message there, too."
Board member Al Griggs said he thinks a smoking ban would be a move in the right direction. But he agreed with the enforcement issues.
"I think it's a good idea, but it's going to be tough to enforce. That's the big issue," he said. "But we should be promoting a healthy lifestyle."
Park officials ultimately took no action on the issue, other than to say they would keep it in mind.
"I'm almost probably of the notion that, let's continue our research, let's watch, let's monitor," Kuhl said. "Let's kind of see what happens, as long as we can say we don't have a problem today."