Mansfield News

May 5, 2014

Council looks to change park hours

City tightening regulations on e-cigarette use.

Parks and trails not equipped with lights would close at least two hours earlier under a proposal tentatively approved by the City Council last week.

Lighted parks and linear park trails would continue to allow patrons from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., while unlighted parks would open at 5 a.m. but close at 9 p.m.

The park staff recommended that trails without lighting close at sundown, but some council members wanted to allow 30 minutes after sundown.

The only lit section of the Walnut Creek Linear Park runs from Town Park to Katherine Rose Memorial Park. Recreation Superintendent Andrew Binz said signs would be installed to alert patrons if they are entering an unlit trail section and to display its hours.

The 6-0 vote is the first of three required for final approval, since the proposal is an amendment to a city ordinance.

Binz said the earlier closing hours were discussed a year ago when the council voted to open parks an hour earlier, at 5 a.m. “The reason is that people are already at our parks at 5 a.m. getting their exercise,” he said.

The council also cast its third and final vote to add electronic cigarettes to the city smoking ordinance’s definition of smoking products, which will ban puffing on the popular smoking-cessation devices in restaurants and many other public places and forbid the sale of e-cigarettes and supplies to minors.

That vote also extended the city’s smoking ban to include city parks and city recreational facilities, which had been a legal gray area in the ordinance, officials said.

Mayor David Cook said the city is being proactive on e-cigarettes, which have become controversial because of their rising popularity among teenagers. The devices use cartridges of liquid nicotine in a wide range of flavors that are heated to produce a nicotine vapor, free of tar. Smokers trying to quit use smaller and smaller amounts of nicotine.

“I’ve heard lots of complaints from school teachers and school police and others that are concerned about high school kids going to these types of establishments,” Cook said, adding that he spoke with a local restaurant that was having trouble with kids using e-cigarettes. “They’re very resistant when the subject comes up. They believe it’s perfectly legal, and up until this point it has been.”

Last month the council imposed further limits on businesses sell electronic cigarettes, allowing future stores to locate only in heavy commercial or industrial zoning districts.

The council actions come as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans to start regulating e-cigarettes, banning sales to minors and requiring manufacturers to put health warning on their products.

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