North Syracuse village trustees voted unanimously to prohibit the use of tobacco products in village parks at its regular board meeting Thursday March 13.
The board’s decision came after a presentation from Kara Williams of Tobacco-Free Onondaga County’s Young Lungs at Play initiative. The program invites all towns and villages in Onondaga County to eliminate children’s exposure to secondhand smoke at public parks and playgrounds.
“I’m glad we’re doing this,” Mayor John Heindorf said. “And I think it’s important that we make it tobacco-free instead of just smoke-free. I remember back in the day when the ballplayers would have big wads of [chewing] tobacco [in their mouths]. Now they’ve all got mouth cancer or throat cancer. It’s just as bad as smoking tobacco.”
The village chose to create a park policy prohibiting tobacco use everywhere but the parking lot rather than establishing a village law or ordinance.
“If we were to go with a local law, we’d have to set a date for a public hearing and then have the hearing before this could go into effect,” said Teresa Roth, head of the village’s parks and recreation department. “I think we should make this a park policy and see how it goes. If it doesn’t have enough teeth or if we need help enforcing it, we’ll see if we need to make it an ordinance.”
Roth said North Syracuse’s policy would be modeled after that of the city of Cortland. Cortland’s policy statement is as follows:
“1. Tobacco use in the proximity of children, youth and adults engaging in or watching recreational activities is unhealthy and detrimental to the health of others.
“2. Tobacco products, once consumed in public spaces, are often discarded on the ground, thus posing a risk of ingestion to toddlers and causing a litter problem.
“3. As parents, leaders, coaches and officials, we are thought of as role models, and the use of tobacco products around youth has a negative effect on their lifestyle choices.
“[Thus] the city of Cortland does not allow the use of tobacco products on city-owned park land, park facilities, open space or joint city/school district properties.”
The focus of Cortland’s policy is on voluntary compliance, as it will be in North Syracuse. Roth said she liked that about Cortland’s policy.
“It’s good to make this about voluntary compliance as opposed to having police or our staff people get involved in patrolling the parks and enforcing it,” she said.
The village is now working on drawing up the policy, which will limit the places tobacco products can be used.
Parks in the towns of DeWitt and Marcellus already have similar policies in place, as do all county parks. The towns of Clay and Cicero are examining similar proposals.
In other business:
The village is looking to remove Toll Road Park from its list of parks.
“This is a four-square-mile community with seven parks,” Heindorf said. “Since the Plank Road Historical Society disbanded, we inherited the buildings at Toll Road Park, and a lot of them are in disrepair.”
Heindorf said the cost to the taxpayers to bring the buildings up to code as well as to maintain the park land would be in excess of $600,000. Therefore, the village will send a letter to the state asking to remove the park from the park list. Heindorf said he hopes the land can be developed into housing.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.