UPDATE: The measure to hold a public hearing on the draft ordinance passed by a 5-2 vote.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids is proposing to ban smoking and vaping in all city parks and playgrounds.
If approved later this year by commissioners, the amendment to the ordinance would ban not only smoking and vaping, but also all types of marijuana and tobacco products from city parks and playgrounds in from January 1, 2021. The city’s Indian Trails golf course is included in the ban.
The amendment would further prohibit intimidating people wanting another person to act in accordance with the ordinance and would ban the throwing of tobacco products and garbage like cigarette butts on sidewalks, grass and the like. areas not designated as a tobacco disposal receptacle.
The amendment to the ordinance banning smoking in parks was presented at the city commission’s plenary committee meeting on Tuesday morning, September 15.
By a 6-to-1 vote, the commissioners gave their initial approval Tuesday morning to advance the ban to a public hearing on October 13. Commissioner Nathaniel Moody was the only no to vote on the measure.
Final approval to hold the public hearing was passed later Tuesday by a 5-2 vote at the committee’s nightly meeting, with Moody and Commissioner Jon O’Connor voting against.
David Marquardt, the city’s director of parks and recreation, told commissioners compliance would start with a verbal warning to quit smoking or leave the no-go area.
If a person refuses to comply, the city can pronounce a civil offense. A civil offense can be avoided if the person participates in a program to quit smoking.
“We are also considering language that would offer participation in a smoking cessation program as an alternative, recognizing that civil offenses and those costs could be more than what some can handle at any given time,” Marquardt said.
Commissioners Milinda Ysasi and Kurt Reppart pleaded for city staff to devise more alternatives to the civil offense.
“I’m concerned that one of the options is to take a waiver course to waive the fine, because we just said it’s not a choice but, in fact, for people it is. could be addictive, so I would like to see if there are other ways for people to fulfill this requirement, ”Ysasi said. “I just think it might impinge a bit on people’s personal choice, on what they decide to do.
“Now, sure, if this ordinance conveys what they can do in a specific area, but if that’s the only option and they aren’t financially able to pay for it, I have some concerns.”
Marquardt said the park ambassadors will enforce the ordinance. The parks would be equipped with signs indicating that smoking is prohibited.
Currently, the city has 28 tobacco-free parks and playgrounds. This work took place in 2016 and was carried out in partnership with Kent County and other community partners as part of an initiative to improve health outcomes in parts of the South and South East. of Grand Rapids.
Since then, a number of people in other neighborhoods have asked to be part of this smoke-free initiative, according to the city.
Between now and the likely October 13 public hearing, the city plans to conduct a community education campaign explaining the benefits of the ordinance.
Once the ordinance is passed, this campaign will move to educate about what is allowed and what is not allowed under the ordinance and provide resources for smoking cessation.