Olentangy Valley News

Powell plans soft ban on smoking in park areas

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The portions of Powell parks most frequented by children soon will be smoke-free.

At its Sept. 18 meeting, Powell City Council unanimously agreed to move forward with plans to prohibit smoking at Powell playgrounds, under picnic shelters and near park bathrooms.

Council did not vote on the issue, but all seven members informally agreed to pursue funding for "no smoking" signs to be installed in city parks after the city's Operations Committee recommended the move.

The signs will be purchased with grant money from the Delaware General Health District, and council likely will vote on a piece of legislation formally declaring those specific areas of all Powell parks smoke-free at an October meeting.

"The intent is to protect the youth of our community, and I think putting signs up in the locations described would do just that," said Councilman Brian Lorenz.

The restrictions first were considered in April after officials with the Delaware County Health Department recommended the ban.

Council members said they would support only a limited ban that targets just the areas where children are likely to be directly exposed to smoke: playgrounds, picnic shelters and near park bathrooms.

Smoking still will be permitted in other areas of the parks, including grassy areas, parking lots and trails.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, Mayor Richard Cline said he would be hesitant to support restrictions that were too broad, but said the proposed limits are reasonable.

"I'm no friend of smoking and I firmly believe it's a terrible health risk, so I don't have any problem with the concept -- it's just the execution," he said.

Council members said the restrictions are more akin to a public outreach effort than a true ban. It won't be strictly enforced and residents won't be ticketed for smoking in a restricted area, though they could receive warnings.

But local health officials said the laws are self-enforcing because residents feel justified asking a smoker to move if they can point to a sign.

Some also have said it will help to reduce cigarette litter, though workers have rarely found discarded cigarette butts in Powell parks, City Manager Steve Lutz said.

Preservation Parks of Delaware County, which oversees eight parks, currently prohibits tobacco use near its three playground areas.

Genoa Township, on the county's southeast side, also has banned smoking in public parks.

Also at last week's meeting, council voted to adopt a tweaked version of a countywide emergency management plan. The revisions indicate that all of Dublin, Westerville and Columbus will be covered by Franklin County's emergency plan, even those portions that overlap with Delaware County.

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