Where there’s smoke, there could be smokers, and that could include in city parks and recreation areas.
That has raised concerns with Havelock commissioners, who wonder if stronger regulations are needed than the current no-smoking policy currently on the books.
"I’d be fine if all parks and rec fields were tobacco free," Commissioner Will Lewis said. "It’s not unheard of."
The city does not have a specific ordinance that prohibits smoking at outdoor city parks and recreation areas. However, a less official policy does exist that prohibits smoking at playing fields, tracks, courts, concession areas, restroom facilities, dugouts, bleachers and other outdoor areas. The policy, enacted 20 years ago, states that police should be contacted only as a last resort in case of violations.
A more official ordinance could allow for police to enforce the rules and to issue citations, and include punishments for violators.
But, Havelock commissioners weren’t quite ready to take that step during their board meeting on Monday night.
"There’s something about as parks and rec that that might be an indication that you wouldn’t have smoking out there," Mayor Jimmy Sanders said. "But before we do a knee-jerk on it, let’s let the rec advisory board take a look at it and they may come back with some specific locations."
Dave Smith, Havelock Parks and Recreation director, said recreation areas had been added to the city since the policy was enacted 20 years ago and that there were simply not enough no-smoking signs to cover all areas.
"Over the passage of time there has been some increased use of some other parks for athletic sports practices," he said, citing areas such as some parks off McCotter Boulevard that host youth sports practices. "There has been some talk whether those other areas need to have signs posted and have that included within the policy, but again, I reiterate that it’s not necessarily scheduled games for those facilities but there are youth practicing youth sports."
Commissioner Karen Lewis said whether youth sports games were taking place at the parks was not the issue.
"There are children there," she said. "There’s not much difference."
Commissioner George Liner said he was most concerned about Havelock City Park.
"We have the band concerts over there, the movies in the park, the Easter Egg hunt, the Fourth of July stuff and everything else," he said.
In the end, commissioners decided to ask members of the city recreation advisory board to study if amendments to the policy were needed.
In other business during Monday night’s meeting, the board:
-- voted to spend $7,578 for sidewalks associated with the new Slocum Creek Recreation Area. The board also directed city staff to investigate placement of a security light at the site.
-- agreed to spend $1,025 as a contribution toward the cost of three signs recognizing the Havelock High School state football championship teams of 1971, 2011 and 2012. The N.C. Department of Transportation is erecting the signs on N.C.101 and U.S. 70 West and East. According to Liner, $1,225 was raised in donations to pay for the signs.
-- voted to send a letter to the N.C. Department of Transportation asking for an entrance to the MacDonald Downs subdivision to be added to the state’s plan for the proposed Slocum Road and U.S. 70 interchange. Designs presented to city officials two weeks ago eliminated the entrance to the subdivision and instead reroutes traffic to Tucker Creek with a new back road connecting to the neighborhood.