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Smokers could face playground ban

Friday - 1/20/2012, 9:40am  ET

A smoking ban in areas designated for children's play and audience seating may be coming to Frederick city parks, along with trash receptacles for cigarette butts.

Under a proposed ordinance to ban smoking on city playgrounds and tot lots, parents and visitors will have to keep their habits outside playground perimeters and outside special events at parks.

A pilot program would provide smokers with a means to properly dispose of smoking materials in city parks.

The Board of Aldermen stopped short this week of the all-out ban on smoking at parks they discussed last year. Alderwoman Karen Young said she had heard from concerned after-meal cigar smokers and strolling pipe smokers.

Aldermen agreed the prime purpose of the new ordinance is to protect youngsters from secondhand smoke. Roelkey Myers, deputy director of parks and recreation, supported the proposal.

The ban would also apply to fixed-seating areas during events at the Baker Park Band Shell and the Carroll Creek Amphitheatre, but not to lawn areas where people may choose to sit.

Joleen Hart, the city's volunteer park enforcement agent, and any city employee or police officer would have authority to enforce the code.

The proposed ordinance applies to other legal smoking materials, such as synthetic marijuana. All smokers would face a $25 fine for smoking where they should not and for dropping cigarette butts on the ground.

Young suggested putting "some pilot butt holders" in parks.

Alderwoman Carol Krimm liked the idea, but Alderman Michael O'Connor said smoking is going the way of the dinosaur, and he would rather install recycling containers.

"We all have those lofty goals, Alderman O'Connor, but there is reality also," Krimm said.

Discarding butts on the ground is a $25 littering offense, so there is a potential for double fines.

Aldermen will have a public hearing on the ordinance after a few changes are made based on Wednesday's discussion. A hearing date has not been set.

Hart, who does most of the enforcing, said she expects to do more talking than fining. Most people comply with city rules once she informs them, she said.

"We want people to enjoy the parks," Hart said.

It is the habitual offender who will most likely get a citation, she said.

"I can take the time to talk to people," Hart said. "I know who I've talked to."