Delaware City Council will hold a public hearing during its March 25 meeting on a proposal to ban smoking in city parks.

The city has been reviewing the proposal since July, when Abbey Trimble of the Delaware General Health District and Allyson Lash, chairwoman of the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, spoke to council and cited instances of adults smoking during ball games and youth activities at the parks.

The smoking has drawn complaints from other parents, they said.

In one example, they said, an adult was seen smoking behind a baseball diamond's backstop during a game.

Council on March 11 voted unanimously to exempt smokeless tobacco from the proposed ban, limiting it to smoking and vaping, and to add language identifying the types of recreation facilities where the ban would apply.

Councilwoman Lisa Keller said "the Libertarian in me" hesitates to regulate "extra things that we didn't need to before," but added, "I've heard from so many people, though, that this actually is a problem at ball games and things like that."

If smoking or vaping is "impacting someone else," Keller said she sees merit in a ban.

But, she added, "If somebody is chewing and spitting into a cup sitting next to me at a baseball game, I don't see why we need to tell that person they can't do that."

Smokeless tobacco, she said, "doesn't really affect anybody (else). That just seems like a big overreach."

Keller agreed with council member Kent Shafer when he said it also would be an overreach to ban smoking on the city's many biking and walking paths, some of which run alongside parks.

"I want everybody to be healthy, but it's not my job to tell them how to do that," he said.

Council member Kyle Rohrer asked if citations would be issued to those who ignore a smoking ban.

Such a citation could be "difficult" as a court case, said Rohrer, who also is an assistant Delaware County prosecutor.

Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said rather than issuing citations for smoking, the proposed ban would give police "a basis to ask someone to exit the park."

If someone fails to leave when asked by police, he said, that person can be charged with criminal trespassing.

City attorney Darren Shulman earlier suggested the city-owned Hidden Valley Golf Course should be exempt from a smoking ban.

The course is heavily used by adults.

City Council approved beer sales at the course in 2018, following a study on ways to increase the operation's revenue and keep it from running at a financial deficit.

City documents at the time said beer sales were estimated to increase the golf course's annual revenue by $5,000 to $8,000 a year.

Several other Delaware County communities have enacted similar bans on smoking in parks.

In 2012, Powell City Council members approved a "soft ban" on smoking within 15 feet of that city's playgrounds, under picnic shelters and near park bathrooms.

Those who violate Powell's ban are not ticketed but instead may receive a warning.

Similarly, Westerville has nixed smoking in parks, a rule that took effect last year.

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