Tobacco banned at Sammamish parks
May 14, 2014
Dogs forbidden from athletic fields
New: May 14, 10:14 a.m.
All tobacco products, and anything that seems like a cigarette, will soon be banned in Sammamish parks.
On a 6-1 vote May 6, the City Council voted to change park regulations regarding tobacco and dogs. Nancy Whitten was the lone dissenter.
Under the new rules, cigarettes are forbidden, as are cigars, pipes, hookahs and anything else that involves smoking tobacco. Also restricted are e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Whitten called the ban a “big brother” step, noted that smoking cigarettes is legal, and that smokers are people, too, who also have rights.
“I think a broad ban is a type of intolerance,” she said.
The rest of the council rejected her arguments.
Mayor Tom Vance noted the thousands of people each year who die of smoking-related diseases, including those exposed to the smoke simply because they are near someone else who is smoking.
“I think our laws ought to reflect our morals,” Vance said.
Councilman Tom Odell explained that both of his parents were smokers, and that smoking led to both of their deaths. He said that he now has breathing problems as a result of having lived with them.
Even so, both of his parents would abide by no-smoking laws, he said, so making the parks off-limits could be helpful.
Councilwoman Kathleen Huckabay noted cigarette butts create litter in areas, meaning city maintenance crews have extra clean-up duties.
No dogs allowed
The new rules also ban dogs, even those on a leash, from athletic fields and picnic shelters. An earlier draft had said they were banned from picnic areas, but Bon realized the entire parks system could be considered a picnic area.
During discussion of the regulations at the April 15 council meeting, councilmembers brought up the popular concerts at Pine Lake Park. Dogs would be banned from those concerts under the new rules.
Bon changed the rules to say the parks department could put up a sign specifically permitting dogs at certain events, such as the concerts. Dogs would still generally be banned from large gatherings unless such a sign is posted.
Councilman Ramiro Valderrama questioned if the rules will be enforceable. There are typically two police officers on patrol at a time, and it seems unlikely they’ll have the time to respond to someone calling about a smoker in a park.
Bon said this would at least give officers a tool and allow the possibility that officers could cite someone for violating the rules.
Vance said that even if the laws may be difficult to enforce, they make a statement about what the city considers acceptable, and many people, he said, are not scofflaws.
“At least a lot of people know they’re on the books, and a lot of people follow the law,” Vance said.
The new rules take effect May 14.
What about pot?
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten wanted to specify that marijuana is also forbidden at city parks.
That would be unnecessary, said City Attorney Kari Sand. She noted that I-502, which legalized recreational marijuana, already forbids people from smoking it in public, so pot smokers would violate state law.
Whitten noted that at events like HempFest in Seattle, organizers put up a fence and sell tickets, so it’s not a public event, and people smoke marijuana.
Parks Director Jessi Bon explained that outside groups would need a permit to engage in such activities, and no such permit would be issued in Sammamish.