Smoking ban in city parks gets Prescott Council OK

Prescott firefighters extinguish a wildland fire under the LaGuardia Bridge near Granite Creek Park on April 27, 2016, in Prescott. Highly flammable cottonwood ‘cotton’ was ignited. The ban on smoking in city parks, in part, is in response to fire risks. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

Prescott firefighters extinguish a wildland fire under the LaGuardia Bridge near Granite Creek Park on April 27, 2016, in Prescott. Highly flammable cottonwood ‘cotton’ was ignited. The ban on smoking in city parks, in part, is in response to fire risks. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

By late May, smoking will be banned in Prescott city parks, except for designated areas.

But because the city currently is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, the designated smoking areas likely will have to wait until later in the summer.

The Prescott City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday, April 24, to impose a smoking ban in city parks, “except in signed designated smoking areas.”

After the meeting, Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini pointed out that the Stage 1 fire restrictions that were imposed last week already include bans on smoking in the parks. Therefore, he said, the city would not sign the designated smoking areas until after the fire restrictions are lifted, which usually happens after the start of monsoon rains in the mid-to-late-summer.

The ordinance, which is set to go into effect in 30 days, gives the city manager or his designee the authority to choose the smoking areas in the parks. City officials say Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes would make the decision on the locations of the various smoking areas.

While most of the council members favored the ban, Councilman Phil Goode voiced strong objections to what he termed an infringement on the rights of adults to partake of a legal activity.

“Our freedoms are constantly under attack, and we have to draw the line somewhere,” Goode said.

He disagreed with the ordinance’s claims on the negative health effects of outdoor secondhand smoke. Although acknowledging that science has shown the effects of indoor secondhand smoke, Goode called the claims about outdoor secondhand smoke “junk science.”

Other council members disputed that, however. Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr — noting that she also supports protecting liberties — called Goode’s claims “way over the top.”

And Councilman Jim Lamerson said the city already has restrictions on where people can conduct other legal activities, such as drinking alcohol and shooting firearms.

Lamerson added: “If you’re going to smoke on city property, (the ordinance says) here’s where you can smoke. It’s a fair solution to this scenario.”

In response to a question from Councilman Steve Sischka on how the ordinance would affect the police department, Police Chief Debora Black said she had a concern that the public would have an expectation that police officers would be able to respond to calls about smoking in the parks.

“I think there is value in encouraging voluntary compliance,” Black said.

“But this is not something that is going to be heavily enforced.”

Paladini added that those who refuse to comply with the ordinance could face a civil sanction or citation, which could be issued by the city’s volunteer park rangers – similar to parking offenses. “It wouldn’t require a police officer,” he said.

Several people spoke to the council, and all were in support of the ban.

Brent Hatch, who has been vocal at previous City Council meetings about the need for a ban, said the city’s general plan advocates environmental stewardship. He said the ban on smoking the parks would help to reach that goal.

And, in response to Goode’s comments about lack of proof about the effects of secondhand smoke, Hatch referred to the estimated 41,000 people who die each year in the U.S. from secondhand smoke.

Hatch concluded his comments by asking for 10 seconds of silence, “For the 41,000 people who died last year, which would be pretty much our whole town.”

Goode responded that the numbers do not relate to outdoor secondhand smoke, which, he said, “dissipates so rapidly.”

The specific locations of the parks’ designated smoking areas have yet to be determined, Paladini said.

The ordinance will apply to: Watson Lake; Goldwater Lake; Willow Lake; Roughrider complex; Ken Lindley complex; Prescott Activity Center; Granite Creek Park; West Granite Creek Park; Dr. John W. Flinn Memorial Park; Leroux minipark; Peppertree minipark; Willow Creek Park; Heritage Park; Pioneer Park; J.S. Acker Memorial Park; Howard B. Stricklin Park; the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve; the city’s open spaces; and the Prescott Public Library.

The city ordinance will not apply to the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, which is managed by Yavapai County.