Two Elkins City Council committees are aiming to keep the town's parks free of cigarette smoke. That's a good thing, but so far the plan drafted has a few loose ends.
The Elkins Public Safety Committee and the Rules and Ordinance Committee have both endorsed the proposed ordinance they refer to as a ban on "tobacco use" in the parks. Yet, members of the committees continually address the issue of smoking and have not mentioned the other common use of tobacco - chewing.
This week, Elkins Parks and Recreation Director Phil Gainer said there is a problem with people not properly disposing of their cigarette butts. Well, what about people who spit clumps of spent "chew" on the ground? Couldn't both of these also be a violation of the littering ordinance?
If these city groups truly want the parks to be tobacco free, they need to stipulate this includes smoking and smokeless products. It's likely that is their intention, it just needs clarification for the public.
The Parks and Recreation Commission earlier this summer enacted a policy of banning tobacco at its facilities. Enforcing the policy is what led to the proposed ordinance. City Attorney Gerry Roberts suggested adding penalties, and the Rules and Ordinance Committee is recommending a $20 to $100 fine. Again, this is a good idea and could possibly serve as a deterrent.
It is hard to believe that police will be sent out specifically to patrol city parks looking for people using tobacco. They may, however, be taking a closer look at the areas and therefore could possibly spot other infractions of the law. The public, too, should be aware of this. Hopefully, tobacco use isn't law enforcement's major concern in ensuring the well-being of people visiting the parks.
All of our city's public recreation areas should be clean and safe for people of all ages to enjoy. Maybe this ordinance can serve as a reminder of that.