By LINDSAY CAREY
Parks and Recreation Board Chairman Michael Fasulo was invited by Town Attorney Mark Sciota to present a new smoking policy the Parks Board has made for Southington town parks at the Town Council meeting on Jan. 12.
“We started discussing this with creating a healthier environment for everybody that uses the parks, especially the children,” said Fasulo.
The Parks Board chairman said the board noticed other towns and cities implementing smoking policies within parks.
In October, the Parks and Recreation Board held a public hearing, which revealed that for the most part the public was in support of establishing a smoking policy in parks. Several members of the Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) Coalition and Youth Council came to speak in support of the policy.
“The only concern we heard was that somebody thought we were trying to ban tobacco products entirely from the parks and that was never our intent,” said Fasulo.
He explained non-smoking signs are already posted in all of the pool areas. However, the parks board will be adding signs in areas that are in close proximity of children.
The new policy states, “By order of the Southington Board of Park Commissioners, tobacco products in any form are not allowed on or in the proximity of the athletic fields, playgrounds, pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, skating rinks or any other areas where the tobacco free signs are posted.”
Fasulo said that smoking will not be prohibited in picnic areas, the grove, the pavilion, and the parking lots.
“We didn’t think that was appropriate,” said Fasulo.
Fasulo also explained that the policy will be “self-imposed.”
“If somebody’s next to you, you need to point out that the sign says no smoking,” said Fasulo. “The leagues are going to be instructed that they are to comply. Parents and anybody in the stands are going to help us impose it, but it really is self-imposed.”
The smoking policy has already received support from other organizations in town.
“It came before our regional health district a few months ago and the health district unanimously endorsed it,” said Town Councilor Stephanie Urillo.
Sciota also noted the new park policy is also supported by the Southington Police Department as well.
A few Town Councilors shared their support for the policy and commended the Parks Board for making this policy and a few were eager to make the policy even more aggressive.
Town Councilor Chris Palmieri questioned if the policy could be made an ordinance.
Fasulo said the Parks Board is not recommending that at this time.
“I don’t think it’s right to be smoking next to someone on a bleacher. I think it’s rude and I think this is a good step in the right direction,” said Town Councilor John Barry. “I think in the future we can go a step further, but for now I think this is good.”
Fasulo also pointed out that the policy was not established as a result of complaints about smoking in parks, but rather a proactive measure to encourage common courtesy and appropriate behavior in the parks.
“I think people don’t realize non-smokers have rights too,” said Barry.