The Atlantic Parks and Recreation Department’s Board of Directors, Monday, tabled further discussion and action on a proposal to make Sunnyside Park tobacco free.
Parks & Rec Board
The decision followed comments by several individuals in favor of the idea, and a nearly equal number of persons opposed to it. The Board will instead gather more, one-on-one input and take a close look at Iowa’s law on the Smoke Free Air Act, as suggested by Councilman Chris Jimerson, the Council’s liaison to the Board. They’ll take the matter up again during their next meeting on August 19th.
Among those who spoke in favor of the proposal, was Karla Akers, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator for Cass County Public Health. Akers presented a petition with 109 signatures of mostly local residents who supported the proposal. Also speaking during the meeting was Atlantic resident Denise Coder, with Cass County Public Health, Atlantic resident Carol Schuler, and Kiwanis President Laura Bacon. Schuler said during a recent weekend camping excursion with friends at the park, the atmosphere was nice, but she and some kids they spent a good deal of their time picking up litter. Schuler said they picked up upwards of 60 cigarette butts. She said having the tobacco free policy would help keep the park clean and serve as role model for children, in saying smoking is not good for you. Laura Bacon said the Kiwanis Club is also in favor of the proposal because of health concerns and keeping the park clean.
Speaking out against the proposal, was Dennis Bryne, of Atlantic, who said he does not smoke, but feels making the park tobacco free would be infringing on the rights of those who do. Byrne said he agrees there are certain areas where smoking should be prohibited, such as the shelter house and other areas where people congregate, but not for the whole park.
David Anderson, of Atlantic, is a smoker who uses the park frequently, as well as his son, who along with his friends, plays frisbee golf there. He agreed there should be designated smoking areas, but they should not make the whole park tobacco free.
Atlantic resident and Cass County Board Chair Mark Wedemeyer told the Parks and Rec Board they would be overstepping there duties if they went to the extreme of making the park tobacco free.
He said as long as tobacco products are legal, it should be permitted in certain areas, and restricted in others, such as the skateboard park. He also questioned how such a policy would be enforced, and if there was to be any enforcement, it should have to do with littering, not using tobacco products per se.
Frank Saddlemire, of Atlantic, had no problem with establishing boundaries for smoking. He too, questioned how a whole park policy could be effectively regulated, when other offenses such as speeding and littering go unpunished. Nancy Gibson, of Atlantic, said she understands the rights of smokers, because she grew up with them in her home, but she said it’s important to impress upon young people the dangers of smoking and to protect them from it, even in an outdoor environment.
Karla Akers said the idea for a tobacco free park came from middle school aged youth. She said they felt it should be tobacco free because of the amount of litter, second hand smoke, and the risk to the environment.
Councilman Chris Jimerson said there are already public areas in the park, where smoking is prohibited by law, such as in the bleachers at the ball diamonds, a concert at the bandshell, and other such sites where mass numbers of people congregate.