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Commission debates who can make park rules

City manager requests new authority to manage rules and regulations for all recreation areas
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
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After a debate over the role of Rocklin’s city manager, the Parks and Recreation Commission suspended a vote to allow city staff to create park rules that could be enforced with a fine for all recreation areas. Now the measure is expected to come back for another vote. 
 
The resolution would “recommend the city manager, or their designee, be authorized to establish rules and regulations that govern the use of specific parks, trails, natural areas and recreation facilities in any manner that provides for the productive, sustainable and safe operation and use of city resources.”
 
All of which, if approved by the City Council, would cut out the Parks Commission, council and the public from weighing in on any rules for the parks. That didn’t sit well with Parks Commissioner Jack Haycock, who said it could be abused at the citizens’ expense.
 
“What you are saying is that you are asking us to recommend to council to change that so the city manager has the exclusive authority to write regulation. He could say red sneakers are prohibited in the parks. Then pretty soon people are getting tickets for wearing red sneakers,” Haycock said during the Oct. 10 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.
Parks Commissioner John Carter thought the measure was dictatorial.
 
“I am pretty sure that (City Manager) Rick Horst has the city’s best interest at heart. I do not think he would do anything that would adversely affect the city at all,” he said. “We know what happened to Rome with Caesar. That’s a concern of mine.”
Rick Forstall, Rocklin’s public services director who oversees the parks, told the commission he wanted flexibility to create the rules.
 
“Here is the problem. Once you have the rules and regulations voted on by council, it becomes a municipal code,” he said. “What happens, whenever you want to tweak one or change the wording, you have to put the whole thing back together and bring the whole thing back to council.”
 
Commissioners suspended the vote after expressing concern that any potentially controversial rule could be developed without comment or review.
 
“This doesn’t give the public the right to be heard on it,” Haycock said.
 
During the meeting, commissioners were concerned after seeing a draft of potential park rules that included an update that would ban all tobacco products in the parks.
 
“Part of these rules and regulations I’m putting in there is a no tobacco rule,” Forstall told the commission. “Which is no smoking, no chewing tobacco of any type in the park. I know that is going to be a really big rule.”
 
More than 80 cities and counties in California, including neighboring Roseville, have smoke-free parks.
 
In an interview after the meeting, Forstall explained the rules and regulations attached to the staff report as “only a draft to be used as an example.” He said any proposed tobacco restriction is now tabled.
 
“No park rules and or regulations have been approved,” Forstall said. “We haven’t discussed the smoking issue in-house.”
Rocklin resident and park-goer Edward Nason was not concerned about any tobacco ban in the works, but did express concern that city staff could decide who gets a ticket.
 
 ”You don’t want them making up some dumb rule without having the Parks and Rec being involved in voting and saying, ‘We don’t think that’s right,’” he said. “The Parks and Recreation (Commission) is set up for this, so it doesn’t make sense to not be involved. The whole checks and balances thing.”
 
Rocklin resident and Dog Park volunteer Diane Marquis thought the city manager should have the right to make the rules because he has the city’s best interest at heart.
 
“That would be good,” she said. “Somebody needs to make the rules.”
 
The measure is expected to come back for discussion and a possible vote again at the Parks and Recreation Commission’s next meeting, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Rocklin City Council Chambers. The public is encouraged to comment.
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Parks and Rec Commission meeting
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14
Where: Rocklin City Council Chambers