The Cortez Parks, Recreation and Forestry advisory board spent its November meeting discussing whether to make the Recreation Center a tobacco-free zone.
Right now there is no policy in place to prevent people from smoking or chewing tobacco on Recreation Center grounds. Dean Palmquist, the Parks and Recreation director, suggested the board make a recommendation to the Cortez City Council to ban tobacco from the property or create smoking areas. They didn’t make a final decision at Friday’s meeting, but resolved to get input from the community and start work on a recommendation for their next meeting.
“This is a pretty national movement,” Palmquist said. “I think there are a lot of people considering it in the parks.”
He said that if the board decides to make the parks partly or completely tobacco-free, they have a few different options for how to proceed. One would be to create their own tobacco policy and put up signs to notify visitors. The other would be to recommend that the city create an ordinance banning tobacco in the area, which would allow the police to enforce it.
The advisory board’s high school liaison, Blair Rice, was in favor of making the center a tobacco-free zone.
“I think it’s great. Our parks are family places,” he said. “We have playgrounds for kids who should not be around smoking and should not have to be affected by second-hand smoke.”
Other board members weren’t so sure. Tom Rennick expressed concern that a policy or ordinance might create unnecessary regulations for the Recreation Center. James Alexander said he would support a policy creating tobacco-free zones in the parks, but he said he didn’t think a city ordinance would be necessary. Palmquist said he expected most of the city’s smokers would respect a no-smoking policy if there were signs notifying them about it. Right now, though, he said he sees people smoking at soccer games and at the skate park, which creates some secondhand smoke and cleanup problems, so he believes the department needs a rule of some kind to prevent that.
The board decided they needed to get some feedback from the community before making a final decision. They agreed to put a survey on their website before their next meeting to gauge public opinion about a tobacco-free zone. Both Rennick and Alexander emphasized that the survey needs to reach as many people as possible, including both smokers and nonsmokers.
“What a survey does, is it gives you some validation,” Alexander said.
He added that the board needs to make sure the survey questions are unbiased and fair, and that they must take all answers equally into account. No matter what the advisory board decides, the city council will have final say on any new rules regarding tobacco.