Cottage Grove rejects city park smoking banCottage Grove will use a Minnesota Nice approach to snuffing out smoking in city parks.
By: Scott Wente , Pierce County Herald
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- Cottage Grove will use a Minnesota Nice approach to snuffing out smoking in city parks.
The City Council last week rejected a policy that would have banned smoking in city parks and instead suggested an informal campaign to appeal to smokers’ sense of decency to not light up near children and nonsmoking park users.
The ban would have affected all parks but allowed exceptions for the city-owned River Oaks Golf Course and for special park events like festivals, tournaments and private gatherings.
The intent of the volunteer parks and environment commissions, which supported a ban, was just to establish a policy that said the city does not want smoking in parks, Cottage Grove Parks and Recreation Director Zac Dockter said. Staff had opted against a stricter ordinance because there was not a feeling that the city needed to be “handcuffing people for smoking in parks,” he added.
But council members were concerned about how to enforce a policy, which unlike an ordinance would have no legal penalty.
“It’s kind of like a policy with no teeth,” council member Dave Thiede said.
Also, some council members wondered whether a smoking ban in outdoor parks would lead to new policy bans in other areas, such as backyard bonfires.
Mayor Myron Bailey called it a “slippery slope.” He noted that already one resident, citing public health reasons, has encouraged the city to prohibit or limit backyard bonfires.
The council voted 5-0 against the proposal on Jan. 2, but suggested city parks staff consider adopting a more casual campaign to encourage people not to smoke near children and nonsmokers in city parks.
Thiede encouraged parks staff to consider a marketing approach to appeal to people to have consideration for other park users.
The proposed ban had been endorsed by the city’s Environmental and Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources commissions and earlier presented to the council, which kicked it back to staff for more review.
However, there ultimately was less council support after a second look.
Council member Justin Olsen said it seemed there were two options: adopt a formal ordinance that could be enforced, or scrap the idea of a formal ban altogether.
When asked by Olsen for their preference, Dockter and Recreation Coordinator Molly Pietruszewski said they would recommend no ordinance.
“It’s an issue we thought was worth debating,” Dockter said.
Nearly 100 cities and counties in Minnesota have tobacco-free policies in their parks and recreation facilities, according to the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, which advocates for the smoking bans.