L/rain
50°
L/rain
Hi 50° | Lo 44°

Claremont Council Mulls Smoking Ban

Claremont — The City Council took a step toward a smoking ban in city parks, but whatever policy is adopted probably wouldn’t take effect until next year.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, councilors discussed enforcement, fines and whether the ban should cover all park land or only certain areas within each park.

City Manager Guy Santagate told the council that before the city staff drafts an ordinance, he wanted to be clear on some of the specifics.

“Can someone smoke in their vehicle with the windows closed?” Santagate asked. “Who would enforce it, the park personnel or police?”

He mentioned specifically the 250-acre Moody Park on Maple Street, which is mostly wooded, except for the playground and tennis courts at the entrance.

“I think it is worth thinking about those issues,” Santagate said. “We don’t want to do something you don’t like.”

Councilors had mixed views on the extent of the ban, where it should apply and how strictly it should be enforced.

City Councilor Vic Bergeron favored a policy that banned smoking in places such as dugouts, the Monadnock Park track area and generally anywhere people typically congregate, but extending it to all park property is “going too far,” he said.

“If a guy is standing by his car in the open air with nobody around, I think it is a little ridiculous,” Bergeron said.

City Councilors Kyle Messier and James Reed, an ex-smoker, thought that to best protect residents’ health, the ban should apply to all park property.

“Second-hand smoke is the worst,” said Reed.

Messier added that a complete ban would be “cleaner and simpler” and noted that smoking also contributes to a litter problem in the parks.

City Councilor Nick Koloski suggested the ban apply to “green space” areas in a park and exclude Moody Park.

Police Chief Alex Scott was asked about enforcement and whether it would present a problem for his department. Scott said he had not looked specifically at a smoking ban but added that he didn’t imagine it would be much different than enforcing ordinances on alcohol or cleaning up after a dog.

He and Parks and Recreation Director Mark Brislin emphasized that one of the most effective tools is education, including signs that explain the ban.

“Signage is everything,” said Brislin, “so people are aware.”

The City Council instructed Santagate to develop a preliminary proposal for the public to comment on before a formal ordinance is drafted, though no time line was given.

“I just want a resolution,” said City Councilor Charlene Lovett, who brought the idea to the council in January.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com