City To Add Designated Smoking Area To Northside Park

OCEAN CITY – Designated smoking areas will be recommended at Northside Park rather than an outright ban.

The Recreation and Parks Commission continued a discussion this week regarding designated smoking areas in town parks.

Last month Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito brought attention to a discrepancy between the Town of Ocean City’s smoking regulations in parks passed in 2011 and the law that was amended this year when the Mayor and Council implemented designated smoking regulations on the beach and Boardwalk.

The original ordinance specifically identified town parks with playgrounds as no smoking areas, which staff was able to monitor and enforce.

The ordinance passed in 2011 lists smoking is unlawful at the Ocean Bowl Skate Park, Ocean City Tennis Center, playgrounds at Bayside Park on 4th Street, Robin Park, Little Salisbury Park, Northside Park, Gorman Park and North Surf Park and the tennis courts at 3rd Street.

The amendment to the town’s smoking laws in March removed the specification of playgrounds from most of the parks. The ordinance now states smoking and vaping, which is an electronic smoking device, is unlawful at the Ocean Bowl Skate Park, Ocean City Tennis Center, playgrounds at Bayside Park, the tennis courts at 3rd Street, Robin Park, Little Salisbury Park, Northside Park, Gorman Park, North Surf Park and Sunset Park.

“Enforcement will be very difficult,” Petito said of the ordinance including parks in general. “The thing about the original was it included areas that were easily definable … there will be growing pains. Our softball leagues, for example, are used to not being allowed to smoke in the dugouts and now it is not smoking in the park at all.”

Petito added if it was the intention of the council to include all parks the Inlet Park, Entry Park, Convention Center Park, Jamestown Road Park, Fiesta Park and 94th Street Fishing Pier should also be included.

At that time, the commission agreed staff should further review all parks in regard to smoking and potential designated smoking areas in the parks. Petito returned to the commission Tuesday explaining Worcester County has a no tobacco policy that prohibits it from public restrooms as well as any spectator area, concession area and playgrounds at public parks.

In comparing the town’s parks to county parks, staff recommended the commission ban smoking from all parks.

According to Petito, there were complaints during a softball tournament held a couple of weeks ago about smoking currently being banned in all of Northside Park.

“The players were unhappy. The organizers of the tournament were the least happy,” she said.

“That is a problem,” Council President Lloyd Martin said. “How many tournaments a year does the organizer bring in? We could at least accommodate them a little. You could smoke just yesterday and now we are saying ‘hell no.’ That is not a transition … organizers bring people, and they are a huge revenue generator for this park, so we need to try to accommodate those people with something that we can all live with.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman suggested establishing designated smoking areas as was done on the beach where smokers could smoke within 15 feet of orange bins where butts can be disposed.

“It is a maintenance issue,” Parks Superintendent Calvin Ginnavan said. “Whether you have a barrel or not, very few people are going to use the barrel and drop the butt on the ground. I have four guys in this park every day that go around picking up cigarette butts out of the softball area. It is a huge maintenance cost for us.”

Commission Chair Councilman Dennis Dare agreed with Hartman.

“I was all for no smoking on the beach but if you don’t give the smokers an option they just go to the street, and so everybody coming and going from the beach has to walk through a cloud of smoke and all the cigarettes on the ground. If you can accommodate smokers on the beach, they will sit in that area. It is human nature,” Dare said. “It is the same thing with the parks … they will just go to the parking lot to smoke. If you have a designated area, maybe they will use that instead.”

As the consensus grew to have designating smoking areas in parks, Petito questioned how those areas will be established in all the parks as they all differ in size and facilities.

Designated smoking areas in all parks are not necessary, Martin responded. For example, smoking at North Surf Park should be unlawful as it only contains a playground.

Ginnavan interjected the only park that has issued with cigarette butts is Northside Park because of the sports tourneys.

The commission agreed to forward a favorable recommendation to ban smoking from all town parks, except for Northside Park where three designated smoking areas will be established.