On Wednesday, the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission (PARC) heard several members of the Turlock community debate whether or not smoking should be banned in all Turlock parks.
After hearing the discussion, PARC moved forward by placing an action item on the agenda for next month’s meeting.
The discussion began at the Aug. 13 PARC meeting, when Girl Scouts Troop 3289, of Turlock, requested smoking be banned in all Turlock parks.
On Wednesday, the Girl Scouts, with the support of Ken Fitzgerald of the Stanislaus County Office of Education Smoke-Free Parks Initiative, returned to PARC to share their thoughts.
According to the Girl Scouts who spoke, the American Lung Association has given Turlock a tobacco control grade of “F.” Riverbank, who received a “C,” was the only Stanislaus County city that did not earn an “F” grade, according to the American Lung Association.
“Unfortunately, Turlock has done almost the minimum requirements for our parks,” one Girl Scout read from a prepared statement. “Don’t the children that play at our parks deserve more protection than that?”
The minimum is that smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of a playground and cigarettes butts cannot be disposed within the same 25 feet.
The Girl Scouts said they have received support from community members, already receiving 198 signatures on a petition in support of the smoking ban.
However, not all in the community shared their support for a smoking.
Turlock resident Larry Clinton spoke at the meeting to argue his freedom to continue smoking in Turlock parks.
“You’re trying to take a freedom away,” said Clinton. “We’ve already lost enough freedoms…the federal government, the state, cities, they always take things away and they never give you nothing.”
Clinton argued that he should have the freedom to smoke when he takes his dog to a local dog park.
“You don’t want people to not smoke in parks, you don’t want them smoking at all,” said Clinton.
Both sides also had separate suggestions as to how to solve the smoking in parks issues that was discussed.
The Girl Scouts argued for a complete ban of smoking in all parks, including the ban of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. Fitzgerald added that this has recently been implemented in Patterson, making it the first Stanislaus County city to adopt a comprehensive tobacco-free parks policy.
Fitzgerald said that the Stanislaus County Office of Education can provide up to 100 signs as part of the smoking ban implementation process, as well as sidewalk stencils that would be more aesthetically pleasing than putting up more signs in parks.
As for enforcement, Fitzgerald acknowledged that police enforcement for park smokers is not feasible and he would hope that a person-to-person enforcement would be more successful.
However, Commissioner Sergio Alvarado brought up the risks of person-to-person enforcement, and Fitzgerald added that a fine would need to be present in any ordinance, to punish any repeat offenders.
Clinton argued for a designated non-smoking area at Turlock parks, for those not wanting to be subject to any second-hand smoke.
“This rule says I can’t smoke if I’m the only one in the park,” said Clinton.
While both sides argued, the only action taken by PARC was to add an action item to the agenda of the next PARC meeting, which will take place Oct. 8. At this time, it is unknown what that action item will entail, but the motion to place an action item on the agenda was unanimously approved.
Previously, in January of 2013, the Parks and Recreation Commission, as it was named at the time, supported a smoking ban in Turlock parks following a presentation by Fitzgerald. No action was taken following the vote of support.