(Atlantic) The Atlantic Park and Recreation Board revisited the Tobacco Free Policy and Ordinance for Sunnyside Park at their meeting Monday night.
The Atlantic City Council turned down the ordinance at their January 22nd meeting. City Council member Ashley Hayes told the board that several City Council members feel there are already things in the state Smoke Free Air Act that the Park and Rec. Department have not followed through on as far as placing no smoking signs at the softball fields and the pool.
“I think the City would rather see those things being put up and done to see if that has any impact first before we make that an official ordinance,” explained Hayes.
Karla Akers, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, addressed the Board, along with some 7th grade students, proposing that they go back to doing just a tobacco free policy for the Skate Park.
“I went to the Park Board for a tobacco free skate park policy; other issues arose that soon complicated the request and the purpose had been lost sight of,” said Akers. “My purpose is not to evoke a message to tobacco users that they are criminals or bad people. Instead, to send a message to them about where they choose to use tobacco; a message of awareness of their surroundings where they dispose of their tobacco in consideration of others that may be present or may have to share that space that has left behind trash.”
Park and Rec. Director Roger Herring said he has never been in favor of singling out the Skate Park for a tobacco free policy because it puts a label on the people that use the skate park. He said it’s an area that is open to the public and state laws govern what goes on in that area.
“If you’re 18 or over, you can smoke in that area. If you’re under 18, you’re in violation of the law; whether it’s a skate park or whether it’s a parking lot or whether it’s downtown walking the streets,” said Herring. “Why single out the skate park as a bad area?”
Karla Akers responded by saying, “It’s not a bad area.”
And, Herring said, “Well then don’t label it that way. It falls under the same jurisdiction that every other open space falls under. Same as the basketball courts over on 10th Street.”
“I don’t see it that way,” said Akers. “I see it as a place where young people meet, just like the schools, that it should be a place where kids can have the opportunity to remain tobacco free.”
Herring said, “They can, they have that choice walking down the street.”
After much discussion, the board decided that they have tried their best, but it may be time to let it go for awhile.
“I think we ought to back off and regroup. I think everybody involved has done their job very well,” said Charlene Beane, Park and Rec. Board Member. “I think the park board presented a good policy to the City Council. I think the City Council was absolutely right in voting it down. It’s their job to not put anything on the books that they aren’t 100 percent behind and keep our laws at a minimum.”
Roger Herring wants to gather some information from the National Park Association on their smoke free policies, but for now they board has tabled any further decisions on a tobacco free policy.