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Smoke-free Auburn parks attempt suffers setback

Auburn Recreation District committee, staff against outright parkwide ban
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn Recreation District committee is recommending no change to regulations that currently allow cigarette smoking in parks.

The district’s policy committee, consisting of directors Scott Holbrook and Jim Ferris, is sending a recommendation to be considered at next Thursday’s board meeting .

Director Gordy Ainsleigh had asked for consideration of an ordinance to ban smoking in all Auburn Recreation District parks. Smoking is now not allowed only at Ashford Park. Regional, Recreation and Meadow Vista parks have no such ban, although state law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of any playground or tot lot.

Ainsleigh’s request followed a “report card” by the American Lung Association last month, which gave the Auburn community failing marks in several categories that would discourage tobacco use, including smoking in parks.

Holbrook said he would support signage allowed under current district rules to prohibit smoking in areas such as baseball-field bleachers and picnic areas. But a blanket ban is not needed, he said.

“I’m personally frustrated by the efforts of some people to ban things they don’t think others should do,” Holbrook said. “The reality is most people are respectful of others. I’ve had no complaints from anyone about smoking in parks.”

Ainsleigh said Thursday that he’ll continue to pursue the ban at Thursday’s meeting, partly on health grounds and partly on the basis that the Lung Association “F” grade is bad public relations for Auburn.

“The Lung Association says we’re out of step,” Ainsleigh said. “It’s such a black eye as a publicity thing.”

Ainsleigh said that he was amazed when he saw a list provided to directors in a staff report of California communities with smoke-free park laws. A total of 176 communities were listed.

Ainsleigh’s smoking ban attempt is also bumping up against a staff recommendation to not amend its current ordinance. Kahl Muscott, district administrator, said the ordinance already allows the district to prohibit smoking in areas, if a sign is put up to alert the public.

“That allows a ban around places where there are kids but also allows smokers places in the park to smoke and, hopefully, not offend anybody,” Muscott said.

The staff report also states that the district does not have the resources to enforce a park wide ban.

“(A ban without enforcement could) lead to frustrated park users and potential confrontations,” the report stated.

Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn was quoted in the report stating that everything the department does is based on priorities and smoking, in all public places, falls on the bottom of the priority scale.

Placer County Undersheriff Devon Bell expressed a similar view but did say that a smoking ban could be a tool for deputies in situations where they need to speak with park users, the report stated.

The report said Roseville parks director Dominick Casey found law enforcement employed the smoking ban in that city’s parks to engage people.

“We have one officer in Roseville assigned to deal with homelessness or transit issues,” Casey stated. “He uses this ordinance more frequently than our other officers, however, because of his assignment, he is on our trails and in our parks more frequently than other officers.”

The Auburn Recreation District board’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. Thursday  at 471 Maidu Drive.