Park smoking ban tabled again

By Lynn R. Parks

After hearing from Seaford Police Department Chief Gary Morris that a proposed smoking ban in city parks could result in "unnecessary negative contact between citizens and police officers," the city council Tuesday night voted yet again to table the proposal.

"I think that we need to think about this a little more," councilman Rhea Shannon said in his motion to table the proposal. The proposed smoking ban is the result of a letter sent to the city by Brandy Parks, Long Branch Road, complaining about people smoking at the city's sports complex. "While there are considerate smokers, there are others that are sitting on the bleachers, standing in line at the concession stand or hanging out near the dugouts where the smoke is being inhaled by our children," she wrote.

Council members discussed the ban at their Aug. 10 meeting but tabled the proposal to gather input from the community. City manager Dolores Slatcher said on Tuesday that she had received several e-mails in support of the smoking ban.

Morris told the council that he would hate to see problems arise between the police department and the community over smoking. "It could cause a scuffle if a police officer tells someone to put away a cigarette," he said. "I am not a smoker and my concern is not for smoking. It is about how we would enforce this ban."

In addition to the sports complex, the city's parks are: Gateway Park in downtown, Kiwanis Park on Stein Highway, Soroptimist Park on Middleford Road, Nutter Park on Norman Eskridge Highway, a boat ramp on the Nanticoke River and the Jay's Nest, near the sports complex.

The city also recently opened Hooper's Landing, a golf course, and the Seaford Community Swim Center, both on the former grounds of the Seaford Golf and Country Club. In addition, the city owns Williams Pond Park, where Seaford Little League games are played.

Alcohol is not allowed in city parks. That is not because of a city ordinance, Slatcher said, but because of a policy that was adopted by the city council in the 1970s.

"In a lot of these parks, you have adult events," Morris said. "In Soroptimist Park, people hold family reunions. Gateway Park is a big part of Riverfest. At the sports complex, there are a lot of adult games, adult softball and adult flag football. At the boat ramp, people are fishing and loading and unloading boats. And Nutter Park is where AFRAM is held every year and where adults play basketball."

Councilwoman Leanne Phillips-Lowe suggested that smoking be banned at Williams Pond Park and the Jay's Nest, places that are frequented by children. But councilwoman Pat Jones wondered about the wisdom of banning smoking altogether at the Little League fields and at the sports complex.

"I think that we should have a designated smoking area," she said. "To me that's the fair thing, rather than saying no smoking at all." Councilwoman Grace Peterson suggested that a smoking ban at Williams Pond is something that could be enforced by Seaford Little League. "I am concerned about smoking in the dugout areas, but that is something that the coaches should say something about," she said.

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