The first draft of New Orleans City Park's proposed smoking ban would apply only to Storyland and City Putt, but it drew a wide range of reactions from park commissioners — some who wanted to ban smoking across the entire park, and some who wanted no ban at all.
The proposal presented last week by Board President Susan Hess and CEO Bob Becker is limited in one way and broad in another. It prohibits smoking, including electronic cigarettes and tobacco products, in City Putt and Storyland, which are recreational areas popular with children. Signage discouraging smoking would go up in other areas of the park. Becker would then have authority to impose additional prohibitions throughout the park as he sees fit.
Some commissioners pushed for stricter guidelines, but Commissioner Edgar Chase was critical on several fronts. The general concept of smoking regulations may be unfair and outside the board's purview, Chase said, and the resolution itself is "overbroad." He added that the process for drafting it — undertaken by a five-member subcommittee, including Hess and Becker — was too secretive.
After the meeting, Hess said the subcommittee studied practices at large parks in several cities, including New York City, Cincinnati and San Francisco. "We had a huge range of findings," she said. Some parks do nothing, some parks are completely smoke free. And there's everything in between. We tried to come down in a reasonable way."
As far as a parkwide smoking ban, "It's not the same thing if you're walking in Couturie Forest and there's no one else around as compared to being in Storyland and there's a crowd of 3-year-olds," Hess said. "We tried to be sensitive to all those possibilities."
Commissioner Errol Laborde said he preferred to see no smoking at all in the park, and Commissioner Michael Hollis questioned the exclusion of Tad Gormley Stadium from the resolution. Becker told commissioners City Park lacks the enforcement means to impose a parkwide ban.
"We chose to begin this process with smaller areas that were fenced because those were the areas we thought we could control the best, and because the children are there," Becker said, explaining the rationale of limiting the strict prohibition to City Putt and Storyland. "Rules that aren't enforced to me are almost worse than nothing."
The board did not set a timetable for making a decision.