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Board sets hearing on smoking ban in parks

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Parks Advisory Board (KPAB) is planning a public hearing regarding a ban on smoking in the city’s 19 parks.

After wrestling with the topic off-and-on for several years, the board decided to take public input on the issue at its Feb. 13 meeting, beginning at 6 p.m. Public testimony can be offered by anyone.

A renewed effort to consider a ban on smoking in Keizer parks was presented to the parks board last year. It led to a parks board recommendation to establish designated smoking areas in Keizer’s parks, but that idea never saw the light of day in a Keizer city council meeting.

For the past two months, KPAB member Jim Taylor has sought to advance recommendations banning smoking in parks with a variety of conditions ranging from the time of year to specific locations, but few have reached the point of a vote at even the parks board level. The members of the board who have opposed the idea have most frequently rooted their arguments in Keizer’s inability to enforce a smoking ban.

In December, Taylor said he would talk with representatives of Salem and Marion County, which already have bans in place, and report back to KPAB.

“Generally, the park users enforce it and smoking has gone down considerably in the parks,” Taylor said of the Salem policy. “They’ve also had a lot less garbage in terms of cigarette butts. No one ends up in handcuffs and no one gets kicked out of the parks, it kind of enforces itself.”

Rhonda Rich, speaking as a board member of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association (WKNA) and as a resident who lives near Keizer Rapids Park, told the board the WKNA still supported the idea of a ban primarily for fire safety reasons after having requested a ban in 2015 and 2017.

“I am a former smoker, but I’m also a health conscious citizen and I would like to see this approved,” Rich said.

Rich added that plans for Keizer Rapids Park include additional sports facilities.

“It’s going to be easier to have something in place now rather than when there are more people,” she said.

KPAB member Dylan Juran, who has opposed the idea of an outright ban in the past, appeared to be swayed by the new information.

“I think it’s significantly more effective to have the community sticking up for the enforcement. If some sort of public education is the way we go, it’s more effective,” Juran said.

That led Joe Tillman, another member of the board, to suggest putting out no smoking signs with less punitive wording and sidestepping the creation of a no smoking ordinance.

“I don’t see anything saying that we can’t put out signs saying ‘Keizer parks appreciate you not smoking here,’ and start the education process there,” Tillman said.

Keizer Parks Supervisor Robert Johnson said he liked the new direction better than an outright ban, but adding signs in all the necessary places could add up quickly. All parking lots associated with parks and trailheads have signs.

“It’s impossible as it is to keep all signs up and unvandalized,” Johnson said.

The board eventually approved a recommendation to add “Thank you for not smoking” signs at all of Keizer’s parks in a 4-3 vote, but opted to host a public hearing on the issue before taking the recommendation to the Keizer City Council.