New policy discourages smoking in Warren County parks

The Warren Sentinel
FRONT ROYAL – County officials are asking people to refrain from smoking near playgrounds and other facilities in local parks.
Tired of the litter problem created by people leaving cigarette butts on the ground in parks, staff members from Warren County Parks and Recreation approached Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten and asked if the county had the authority to ban smoking in its parks.
Whitten said that while the county can not make smoking in parks a crime, it could enact a policy requesting that patrons refrain from smoking in areas of congregation with parks.
The Board of Supervisors on Jan. 2 approved an anti-smoking policy for county parks that states:
“Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke and localities have targeted areas with the smoke-free initiative in areas where children are likely to visit when they are not in school. The initiative promotes positive role models for children and will also reduce litter. … We ask that you do not smoke within 100 feet of playgrounds, courts, ball fields and recreation areas.”
Signs stating the new policy will be erected at parks, but no one will enforce the policy because it is not a law, Whitten said.
“It's more like a common courtesy that we ask people not to smoke,” Whitten said. Currently there are no plans for fines or sanctions for smoking at parks.
“This policy was very similar to what Arlington County has done,” Whitten said, adding that Arlington also led the way with an anti-smoking policy for restaurants that eventually became a statewide ban.
Warren County Parks and Recreation Director Dan Lenz said the new anti-smoking parks policy was created in response to complaints.
“There were a number of citizen complaints this past summer at the Free Wheeling Way Playground and Fantasyland Playground at Lions Park,” Lenz said Jan. 4 in an email. “We have also received complaints at some of the facilities including the Front Royal Little League Complex in Miller Park, the Adult Softball Complex in Miller Park and the skatepark in the Skyline Soccerplex.”
The Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to approve the new anti-smoking policy before it went to the Board of Supervisors, Lenz said.
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