Council Supports Plan to Ban Smoking in All City Parks

The City wants you to get your butt out of the parks.

News Radio 1200 WOAI reports City Council, following a briefing on Wednesday, appears open to a measure that will be up for a vote next week to ban smoking inside and outside in all city parks.

Xavier Urrutia, who heads the city parks department, says parks are good for many things, but not for smoking.

"It seems counter-intuitive to have smoking allowed in a park where we have green space, where people are outdoors exercising and engaging in healthy activities, only to have them be exposed to second hand smoke," Urrutia said.

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval says she will support the recommendation.

“A tobacco-free policy is the future of clean, healthy parks. With a healthy environment, everyone wins: our children and park users, our wildlife, and our natural environment," she said.

Urrutia said park officials would be empowered to make one-time adjustments for special events, citing concerts at Sunken Gardens, which is in Brackenridge Park, as an example.

"A large group of people who might be there for extended hours, we could designate a small area as a smoking area temporarily," he said. "It does allow us that lattitude."

Urrutia also expressed concern about cigarette butts thrown on the ground in parks, where people may be laying in the grass or participating in sports.

The no smoking ordinance is part of a major effort to examine the future of city parks. A survey showed that citizens want more parks, even small so-called 'pocket parks,' so the city says it is working on a goal of having at least a pocket park within a ten minute walk of every home in the city.

Citizens also cited the need for more security in city parks as well.

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