The village of Coal City is considering an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in public parks.
Ann Gill Editor
Smoking is already prohibited in bars, restaurants and village buildings, and it appears public parks are next.
The village of Coal City is considering an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in public parks for the purpose of protecting the health of residents, the environment and to eliminate litter caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials.
Trustee Tim Bradley, who oversees the village's Park Committee, presented the idea to the village board last month and it quickly garnered support from Police Chief Tom Best.
"I'd like to see the parks be made no smoking if we can," the chief said.
Best had already been in contact with communities that prohibit citizens from lighting up in their parks.
In order to clarify the village's authority to ban smoking in outdoor spaces, the village attorney took a look at the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
While the rules don't require that outdoor spaces more than 15 feet from the entrance to a public building be free from smoke, the law doesn't prohibit a municipality from declaring its public parks as smoke free zones.
So at the village board's meeting on Monday, Attorney Mark Heinle said trustees had three options from maintaining the status quo to implementing a full ban or putting in place a targeted ban that would prohibit smoking within a certain distance of a seating area, field, playground or event.
Although an ordinance outlining a full ban was prepared for the board's consideration, Mayor Neal Nelson asked for trustees to take the proposal under advisement for further discussion and possible action at a later date.
The mayor indicated that Trustee Justin Wren, who was unable to attend the meeting, had voiced concern about a total ban and suggested the board consider having designated smoking areas within the various village parks.
Best noted that he wasn't against having designated spaces, but said the streets and sidewalks in and around the parks would be exempt from any ban, "so it's just a short stroll away for someone to go to smoke."
The chief and his department have been working to make the town's parks family friendly.
"We want our park spaces to be places where parents are comfortable taking their children," Best said.
Individuals congregating in the parks to smoke has been a problem in the past and although it seems to be less of an issue this year, the chief said approving a smoking ban is the right way to go.
Should the measure be approved, trustees questioned the level of police enforcement.
"Well, we're not out to write a bunch of tickets. It's common sense enforcement," Best said, noting that in most cases his officers would ask violators to remove themselves from the park while smoking.
Trustees also touched on how the new law would be communicated to residents and signage for the park.
Since three of the board's members-Wren, Bradley and Ross Bradley-were absent from Monday's meeting, trustees agreed to resume the conversation at the next meeting on Monday, June 23.