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posted: 11/22/2013 4:59 PM

Smoking ban extended to all Vernon Hills Park District facilities

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Broadening rules that had been in place, the Vernon Hills Park District has banned the use of tobacco products within 15 feet of all of its properties.

"The essence of the ordinance now is there will be no tobacco products of any kind allowed on park property," executive director Jeff Fougerousse said.

Discussion began in September when the park board initially wanted to consider banning smoking at special events, he added.

"From there, the direction was to go pretty much all in," Fougerousse said.

Since 2008, smoking had been prohibited within 25 feet of any playground or athletic field, he said.

The park board this past Thursday voted 3-2 to enact the new rule, which covers every building, shelter, street, sidewalk, trail, path, park, playground, open space and other properties or facilities owned, leased or licensed by the district. The district has 25 parks.

"We are a park district. Our mission statement is about health and wellness," said board President David Doerhoefer, who cast the deciding vote. "You also have the cleanup issue."

There was no debate preceding the vote but Doerhoefer noted that since the discussion began, the district hasn't received any letters, emails or phone calls on either side of the issue.

Park Commissioner Mike Meline, one of the two votes against, said the previous rule was adequate.

"We have plenty of signs and rules and regulations," he said. He noted that, for example, someone walking to the commuter train station on Route 45 near Deerpath Drive, would have to extinguish a cigarette while on a short section of path installed by the district as a shortcut.

"It's not the end of the world but how far should we take it?" he said.

Fougerousse said an informal survey showed that 18 of 40 area park districts have similar bans and many others are going that route.

"It's all in how you interpret it," he said. "Some of our commissioners feel we're in a business to promote a healthy lifestyle and quality of life, and it's kind of practice what you preach."

Signs will be installed soon and the ordinance goes into effect immediately, Fougerousse said.

"The enforcement will be one initially of informing the public if we do see someone smoking in the park, politely letting them know the parks are smoke-free," he added.

According to the new rules, a second violation within a 12-month period will be subject to revocation of any permit and a fine of $25. Subsequent offenses increase in increments of $25 to a maximum of $100.

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