WATERLOO — Members of the Waterloo Leisure Services Commission want more input before considering a smoking ban in city parks.

Commission members discussed the issue Tuesday after resident Bryan Vestal launched a public awareness campaign in hopes of getting Waterloo to join more than 30 other Iowa cities, including Des Moines, which have instituted similar bans.

But the board, staff and several councilmen at the meeting reached no clear consensus on how to proceed.

Commission chair Megan Hannam said Clear Lake has seen public support for a park smoking ban being implemented there. But she questioned whether there have been many complaints or broad support for a similar move in Waterloo.

The city will ask its neighborhood services coordinator to gather input from various neighborhood associations in coming months.

“I would like to hear what the neighborhoods have to say,” Hannam said.

The Iowa Smokefree Air Act adopted in 2008 prohibits smoking in public buildings and grounds, including outdoor sports arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters and designated seating areas of outdoor festivals or outdoor entertainment venues. But the law did not govern public parks or golf courses.

Leisure Services Director Paul Huting said the city does attempt to restrict smoking at events in Lincoln Park or the RiverLoop Amphitheater and during sporting events in other parks.

Huting noted the police department had concerns about its ability to enforce a smoking ban, which would be low on officers’ priority list.

“Anytime you have a rule that’s not enforced it can breed complaints,” Huting said.

Councilman Jerome Amos Jr. suggested the commission could adopt a policy — stopping short of an ordinance and fines — perhaps restricting smoking near play equipment and putting up signs in the worst places.

“In my mind we have to do something,” he said. “At least try something and see how it goes.”

Councilman Steve Schmitt said he also thought a park policy, but not an ordinance banning smoking, was appropriate.

“(Otherwise) we’re basically telling people we’re going to have laws that we’re not going to enforce,” he said. “I think that’s the wrong message.”

Travis Nichols, Leisure Services project manager, was skeptical signs would work.

“Public park shelters have the ordinance on there where you can’t affix any decorations or anything to a public structure,” Nichols said. “Every Monday we’re cleaning off birthday decorations from all the shelters.

“You could definitely put some no smoking signs out there and I’d probably find most of the cigarette butts around the base of those signs,” he added.

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Staff Writer

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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