No support for smoking ban in Urbana parks

URBANA — Park board members in Urbana say they're willing to consider some light restrictions on smoking at park district facilities, but not a blanket prohibition.

At a study session Tuesday night, park board members asked park district staff to prepare a proposal to prohibit smoking in some areas, such as playgrounds and other areas where children congregate.

But an outright ban didn't find any favor.

"I don't think we want to discourage smokers from using the parks," said board president Michael Walker.

"I don't think we want to get into the business of controlling people's behavior," added board member Deborah Rugg.

Last week, the Champaign park board also declined to consider an outright ban, but promised to monitor whether smoking in parks became a problem.

Urbana Park District Executive Director Tim Bartlett said the local public health district recently met with area parks and recreation agencies to determine if there was anything that could be done to promote healthier lifestyles.

Litter from smokers is a problem at some park district facilities, Bartlett said, including pavilions at Crystal Lake and Carle parks and also at a corner of Crystal Lake Park across from Carle Foundation Hospital. Carle prohibits smoking on its campus.

Smoking already is banned at the aquatics center at Crystal Lake Park and at the district's dog park, but other outdoor areas are open to smokers, park officials said.

Even if smoking restrictions are passed, the park district wouldn't enforce them, nor would Urbana police, according to Bartlett. Enforcement would be up to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

"I don't think it's our job to be laying the law down," board member Nancy Delcomyn said.

Bartlett said he favored a policy used in Lincoln, Neb., where a smoking ban is posted in certain areas of parks.

"It's a sensitive approach but not heavy on enforcement. I'd call it a courtesy approach where you rely on people," he said.

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