Parks update // Tobacco policy

New policy to restrict tobacco use in parks

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted May 5 to adopt language that will restrict tobacco use on parks property starting July 1.

Adding to already-existing limitations on cigarette smoking, it will make it against Park Board policy to use any type of tobacco on parks property or in board-owned vehicles. Furthermore, tobacco use will be restricted within 100 feet of any Park Board building, playground, beach or wading pool, as well as within 50 feet of any youth athletic field or contest. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Rose Garden, Lake Harriet Band Shell and Lyndale Park Gardens are all on the restricted list. Park-based events also will be automatically tobacco-free, although applicants for permits will be able to request exemptions.

Because they’re policy rather than ordinance, none of the changes makes tobacco use illegal. Enforcement will come through voluntary compliance, not tickets or arrests.

Commissioners voted 7-0 to adopt the language, with two abstaining. The vote followed a sometimes tense discussion where Commissioner Brad Bourn offered a number of amendments to further bump up restrictions, including a proposal to make it against policy to use tobacco within 100 feet of any Park Board body of water. Vice President Annie Young said she felt like “we’re becoming Big Brother up here,” and Commissioner Jon Olson at one point turned to Bourn and said, “I think you’re just pissing people off.”

Bourn after the vote said that he was disappointed a board focused specifically on green space wasn’t “as forward-thinking” as suburban city councils who have passed complete tobacco bans despite parks being only a fraction of their responsibilities.

That Minneapolis’ parks would be considered tobacco free as of July 1, Bourn said,
“I don’t know if it can be called that anymore.”

President John Erwin later responded to the criticism by saying he had heard more constituent support for a moderate tobacco policy than for a strict one.

At the committee level, Young called the policy only a start.

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Board to consider Kingfield dog park

Supporters of an off-leash dog area at Martin Luther King Park could get what they want. After brief public testimony at the Park Board’s May 5 meeting, President John Erwin said their proposal would be sent to the board’s Planning Committee for official review.

As proposed, the off-leash area would be built on the park’s east side, along the freeway sound wall, and include separate areas for large and small dogs. Unofficial estimates put the cost of construction at $40,000.

If approved, the off-leash area would be the first for parks District 6, which encompasses the bulk of the region south of Lake Street and which currently has the second-highest number of licensed dogs of any Minneapolis parks district.

There are some roadblocks, including concerns about the impact on a new bike path that runs through the proposed area. Vice President Annie Young also noted that she’s seen the site used by children for soccer.