Friday Nov 30 2012
Smoking ban proposed for new park rules
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald correspondent
City backs off measure for manager to call shots
After a controversial measure to seize control over the authority to autonomously make or amend city park rules was suspended at last month’s Rocklin Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, the city has backed off.
In a letter to commissioners, City Manager Rick Horst wrote, “The intended purpose is to have a definitive code by which staff can govern our park systems and not to have a debate over who has the authority to establish rules and regulations.”
At the Parks and Recreation meeting, Rocklin Director of Public Services Rick Forstall presented proposed rules and regulations for the city’s parks, trails and open spaces for the commission’s approval.
“We’re not recommending as to whether or not the city manager has the exclusive authority. That is off the table. We’re just talking about the rules,” said Parks Commissioner Jack Haycock.
The original draft of the rules included a ban on all types of tobacco, including smoking and chewing tobacco, but the current proposal is limited to just a smoking ban.
“We’re relying on the definition of smoking,” Haycock said. “Someone could be smoking lettuce leaves, and it’s not tobacco.”
Roseville has a similar smoking ban in the parks. Right now, the state bans smoking from 25 feet from playgrounds. Under the new Rocklin rules, smoking would be banned at all parks, trails and open spaces. People caught smoking in the parking lot could also be fined.
Haycock took issue with the new rule that would prohibit 25 people from assembling in the parks without approval.
“Does every group over 25 need written authorization to use a park?” Haycock asked. “If I was a scoutmaster, I would be subject to being cited for having a court of honor in the Sierra Meadows park next to the church where we met by having more than 25 people assembled without a permit.”
Forstall said people try to bypass the system and the registered uses of park pavilions.
“It takes away from the opportunity for other community members to come out and use those parks,” he said. “We have a system in place where they can come in and reserve it. We have fee waivers.”
Commissioner Paul Ruhkala and Forstall thought common sense would prevent a family picnic from being fined, but Haycock had a different take on it.
“Sometimes common sense doesn’t get translated with the person who has the ticket book to give you a notice to appear,” Haycock said. “Once the ticket gets written, you are going to have a person coming (to the city) and they’ll say, ‘I got a $250 ticket because I had my family for a picnic.”
Commissioner Christine Anderson said rules are guidelines about safety.
“I don’t think our means tonight is to start running around with binoculars trying to write out tickets,” she said. “It’s for cases where our safety in parks is going to be in jeopardy.”
Forstall said he wanted rules to hold people accountable and help combat issues facing the parks right now.
“We have wet fields and we have a group of soccer players who come in at lunchtime and they’ll go out and they’ll play on those fields and tear them up,” he said. “We have no course of action to stop them. They’ll have pick-up games and we have no control.”
Forstall said the city needs to manage situations based on the need.
“We have daycare organizations that come from Roseville or Lincoln with vanloads of children to come in and use our water parks,” he said. “Again, we have no control. They’ll take over the whole park and they’re not even Rocklin members.”
With approval from the commission, the rules now go to the City Council for approval before they can be enforced. A list of the rules and regulations can be found at www.rocklin.ca.us.
The city received criticism for eliminating the Parks and Recreation director position and dissolving park staff into the City’s Public Services Department, under Forstall.
“I thought it shouldn’t be happening,” said concerned citizen Jill Fellows. “If there are staff problems in the Parks and Recreation Department, change the staff and not the entity itself. I don’t understand if it is a staffing problem why it has to be put within another department and have another director take on an extra job of another department when I think they have their hands full.”
“The structure is extremely well put together and it’s probably the best I’ve seen it in a long time, even though I’m really busy,” Forstall replied. “We have good people in those organizational layers. I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Fellows said more decisions need to be put up for public discussion.
“I want to make sure that things come to the residents,” she said. “Somehow I’m missing things that are happening.”
Park smoking ban
Smoking is prohibited in:
• All city parks, including parking lots in the parks
• All city-designated open spaces such as nature areas, greenbelts and wildlife and vegetation habitat areas
• Along all hiking and biking trails through city parks and/or open space areas
• All recreational facilities owned or operated by the city of Rocklin
No person shall conduct or carry on an assembly of more than 25 people in a park for more than 30 minutes without written authorization.
~ Source: city of Rocklin (complete list available at www.rocklin.ca.us)