Residents fuming over the smoking ban at city parks being discussed by Turlock’s Arts, Parks, and Recreation Commission in recent months may be surprised to find out that smoking in parks is already technically illegal.
At the commission meeting on Tuesday Parks, Recreation & Public Facilities Superintendent Erik Schulze revealed that a resolution prohibiting smoking has been in place since 2003 when the Turlock Regional Sports Complex was established.
“In our research over the last month we were trying to figure out why our sports complex — the soccer fields — had a no smoking ban but none of our other parks did. Due to our research we came across a council resolution from back in 2003 and within that council resolution there was a banning of smoking in parks and parking lots — all parks and parking lots,” explained Shulze. “For whatever reason after the council took action on that item there was never any enforcement, never any signs posted.”
The 2003 prohibition of smoking was presented to the council by the Parks and Recreation Commission prior to its merging with the Art Commission just a few months ago. While the former commission and council approved the banning of smoking, which Shulze says is enforceable according to the city attorney, for the sake of transparency Shulze is preparing a full report for the present commissioners to look over before proceeding further.
“The council has changed members multiple times since then so we’re still trying to figure out what happened , why it never got enforced, but really there’s no documentation other than the council resolution synopsis that went to council,” explained Shulze. “The problem was that it was in a set of rules that was several pages long that wasn’t a ban smoking resolution that was specifically to do that, it was within the rules of what was going to be set up at that complex.”
The conversation of a smoking ban in Turlock parks began in August when the Girls Scouts of Troop 3289 presented a request to the Parks, Art, and Recreation Commission to consider taking steps towards creating a healthier environment at local parks by forbidding smoking. In September the girls made a second presentation before the commissioners with the support of Regional Health and Safety Planning Coordinator Ken Fitzgerald of the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Citing the fact that children model adult influence as one reason to ban cigarette smoking, the Girl Scouts and Fitzgerald called upon the banning of all smoking, including e-cigarettes which emit water vapor, in order to protect children from picking up bad habits.
However the troop’s proposal faced opposition when Turlocker and self-proclaimed smoker Larry Clinton claimed that banning smoking would not discourage the habit as the onus should be placed upon the parents to cultivate healthy habits and not the City of Turlock.
“You’re trying to take a freedom away and we’ve already lost enough freedoms,” said Carter.
While next month the commission will vote on whether or not to reaffirm the smoking ban and forward it to the City Council, it is still possible that the item could be amended in the process. According to Commissioner and City Council candidate Sergio Alvarado the advent of electronic smoking devices should be addressed.
“The one thing that is lacking is e-cigarettes because e-cigarettes weren’t around back in 2003 so I think just for that we should bring the item back and include that in the discussion somewhere,” said Alvarado.
The Parks, Art, and Recreation Commission meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m.