Designated Smoking Areas Eyed For Northside Park

OCEAN CITY – Smoking in all city parks will become illegal except for two designated smoking areas in Northside Park — at least for now.

On Monday evening, Recreation and Parks Commission Chair and Councilman Dennis Dare presented the Mayor and City Council with the commission’s final recommendation regarding smoking in city parks.

In April, 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. However, the amendment to the town’s smoking laws in March removed the specification of playgrounds essentially banning smoking from all public parks and making it more difficult to enforce.

Petito furthered there were complaints during a softball tournament over smoking being banned from all of Northside Park and by the end of the discussion the commission was in consensus to ban smoking from city parks except for Northside Park. Due to Northside Park’s large size and number of activities held at the facility, it was thought best to establish designated smoking areas.

Last week Petito presented four designated smoking areas at Northside Park marked with an orange cigarette butt receptacle and signage similar to what has been installed on the beach.

In reviewing the four proposed locations, commission members grew concerned over the visibility of the locations as well as the convenience to smokers using the Recreation Complex on the south side of the property.

After discussion and review of the park map, two new sites were proposed. The first is near the west entrance of the Recreation Complex and one near the softball parking lot on the north side of the property.

The commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the full council to approve the two designated smoking locations and a revised ordinance in accordance with the changes.

The proposed ordinance states, “Smoking and vaping is unlawful in all public parks except Northside Park, where smoking and vaping is unlawful except within 15 feet of a designated smoking area.”

Councilman Doug Cymek made a motion to approve the commission’s recommendation. Council Secretary Mary Knight seconded the motion asking for an evaluation of the policy at the end of the summer season.

“I would personally like to see the park be smoke free at some point but I think this is a first good step,” Knight said.

Dare agreed, however pointed out designated smoking areas at least for one year will educate smokers of the town’s intentions and cut down on the littering of cigarette butts.

“It is important to note that staff was originally against the idea of smoking in the park. I am certainly not a fan of smoking in the park but because of the softball teams and so forth we would have a litter issue. I hope this is something that is short term and a way of transition for the smokers in the park,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said.

The council voted unanimously to send the commission’s recommendation of two designated smoking areas at Northside Park and ordinance changes to first reading on Monday evening.  The policy’s effectiveness will be reviewed at the end of the summer season.