Lake County proposal would ban smoking at forest playgrounds

People wouldn't be allowed to smoke at any of the Lake County Forest Preserve District's nine playgrounds under a proposal before the forest board.

The new rule would be enacted immediately if it is approved by commissioners when they meet Tuesday morning in Waukegan.

Smoking at other forest district sites still would be allowed. A possible ban at all of the district's preserves was discussed but wasn't supported, board President Ann Maine said in an email to the Daily Herald.

“We want people to feel welcome in our preserves, and those who smoke need to get outside and walk, too,” Maine said.

According to a memo from Mike Tully, the district's director of operations and public safety, the proposal was inspired by a June presentation to the district's finance committee by the Lake County Health Department and an anti-smoking youth group called Reality Illinois.

The plan targets playgrounds to protect children who are sensitive to smoke, officials said.

“The decision about the playgrounds was that there are children in a smaller area for a longer period of time, making it more likely that they will be impacted (by secondhand smoke),” Maine said.

The ban would apply to the playgrounds at:

• Wright Woods near Mettawa.

• Half Day Forest Preserve near Vernon Hills.

• Old School Forest Preserve near Libertyville.

• Independence Grove Forest Preserve near Libertyville.

• Greenbelt Forest Preserve near North Chicago.

• Van Patten Woods near Wadsworth.

• Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda.

• Heron Creek Forest Preserve near Long Grove.

• Hastings Lake Forest Preserve near Lake Villa.

Forest district personnel can create no-smoking zones without board action, but the anticipated board vote “(will) be a more transparent and definitive statement,” Tully wrote in his memo.

The necessary no-smoking signs are expected to cost the district about $3,000.

The rule will be enforced by the forest district's ranger police. People caught smoking could be fined $30.

“But at this point we have no intention of issuing any (tickets),” Tully told the Daily Herald. “Rangers will just point out the signs to inform people that the playground area is a no-smoking zone.”

The proposal isn't expected to affect littering, which Maine said isn't much of an issue at the preserves.

“I have spent hours in the preserves all over the county and frankly I don't see much litter,” she said. “I think people are generally respectful.”

Tuesday's board meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. or 30 minutes after the earlier Lake County Board meeting, whichever is later. Both sessions will be at the county government center in downtown Waukegan.

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