Naperville bans smoking at 137 outdoor parks

Smoking outdoors at Naperville Park District parks is no longer allowed.

Effective immediately after a meeting Thursday night, an amended park district ordinance prohibits all forms of smoking at 137 parks in the district's system. Exempted are the district's golf courses, Springbrook and Naperbrook, and the Naperville Riverwalk, which is maintained by the park district but doesn't fall under its sole jurisdiction.

Despite concerns about government overreach, the park board approved the ban by a 6-1 vote. Commissioner Bill Eagan voted against it, saying the exemption of golf courses needed more review.

Eagan said he recently visited the putting green at Springbrook and saw people smoking there, despite the presence of children.

He said he originally feared allowing smoking on golf course restaurant patios, but learned that is prohibited within 15 feet of the exits by the state's indoor smoking ban.

"While I can appreciate the golf course being a little bit of an exception," Eagan said, "where is the line?"

Park board members considered, then enacted, this outdoor smoking ban after a few residents brought to their attention a negative interaction with a baseball player who was smoking at Nike Sports Complex and "chose not to use common sense," Executive Director Ray McGury said.

It should be common sense not to smoke where it could bother others or while kids are playing sports, park board President Mike Reilly said.

"I was a little bit troubled by the fact that we had to actually enforce an ordinance where you would think common sense would prevail," Reilly said. "But as one of my friends says, 'Laws are made for when common sense runs out.'"

The ban prohibits smoking of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and vaping devices inside parks, but allows it in parking lots and on adjacent streets where parking is allowed.

Creating the rule allows park patrons to call district police if someone refuses to stop smoking or move to a parking area, said Derke Price, the park district's attorney.

Although the park board voted nearly unanimously in favor of the ban, Reilly and Commissioner Mike King recognized different people in the community held split opinions.

They said some wanted the rule to ensure smoking won't become an issue in spaces designed for healthy, active recreation, while others didn't want yet another government regulation.

For Reilly, the final decision rested with the park district's mission, which is to "promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community."

Naperville follows several other suburbs in banning smoking at outdoor parks or during outdoor sporting events. Buffalo Grove, Elmhurst, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Gurnee, Schaumburg and Vernon Hills already have similar rules.

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