Smoke-free parks are a step closer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

The Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Advisory Board voted unanimously Monday evening to adopt a tobacco-free policy barring the use of tobacco products on city-owned recreation areas.

That doesn&8217;t mean the policy is in effect. Now it&8217;s the Albert Lea City Council&8217;s turn to take the reigns on the proposed tobacco-free policy for the city&8217;s parks.

&8220;Nothing&8217;s indicated they won&8217;t pass it,&8221; said Parks and Rec Director Jay Hutchison.

The discussion first came up at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The policy cites a need to promote healthy lifestyles by example and cut down on litter created by tobacco products in Albert Lea&8217;s parks and facilities.

The proposed policy is not an ordinance, though the City Council could turn it into an ordinance. An ordinance can be enforced while a policy is more of a guideline.

If approved as a policy, it will mainly be enforced by voluntary compliance.

&8220;If someone is smoking out in front of the City Arena, we&8217;re not going to call the police,&8221; Hutchison said.

The board looked at other city&8217;s tobacco-free policies for ideas on drafting Albert Lea&8217;s. There are 78 communities in Minnesota that have either policies or ordinances restricting tobacco from parks.

In other news, the Advisory Board:

– Heard an update on the Parks and Recreation surveys.

There are about 10 percent of the surveys turned in. Hutchison said they are hoping for at least 20 percent.

There were 1,061 surveys mailed out, Hutchison said.

Many of the surveys they have received have comments about the city&8217;s baseball and softball program.

There were also some comments about the Albert Lea Aquatic Center&8217;s staff behavior.

&8220;It&8217;s something we can look for and something we can use during orientation,&8221; Hutchison said.

The deadline for the surveys is Friday.

– Discussed and passed a motion to suggest to the city that the Advisory Board become a seven-member board instead of having nine members.

The proposed makeup would have a representative from each of the six wards and one at-large member. The board would still have a City Council liaison.

The new design would be instituted as current members terms expire.

Dave Gilbertson, whose term will expire in December, addressed concerns for maintaining diversity under this new makeup on parks-and-recreation issues such as the Senior Center and Albert Lea Civic Theatre.

Terms for Kevin Dulitz and Jan Mattson will expire in December. Thelma Foss will likely be retiring, Hutchison said.

– Heard an idea for the Katherine Island bridge from Hutchison. Hutchison brought the idea of making a land bridge to the island instead of rebuilding the current bridge.

Although the land bridge would be less expensive, the board decided cheaper doesn&8217;t always mean better.

&8220;There&8217;s some concern that on every postcard from Albert Lea, you see that image,&8221; Hutchison said.