Measure would allow localities to prohibit lighting up at public outdoor facilities<.h3>
By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County Board of Supervisors approved a request Tuesday by the county attorney's office to adopt a resolution supporting legislation aimed at snuffing out smoking in public parks.
Virginia House Bill 142 would allow localities to adopt an ordinance banning smoking in public parks, said Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten. Localities could prohibit smoking in an entire park or designated sections, he said.
Whitten said he was approached earlier this year by the Parks and Recreation Department to determine who has authority to prohibit smoking in public parks.
"Right now, you can prohibit smoking in indoor facilities, but not outdoor," Whitten said. If the bill passes the General Assembly and the county adopts a consequent ordinance, signs would have to be posted at park entrances, alerting people to the ban.
Parks and Recreation Director Dan Lenz said he's received several complaints from people about smoking in parks, particularly around playgrounds and areas with a high concentration of children and pregnant women.
"There have been incidents where people actually got into arguments about smoking," he said. Lenz said that at places like Bing Crosby Stadium in Front Royal, smokers can be asked to step outside to smoke "but we can't enforce it."
Lenz added that he's a little surprised that a similar bill hasn't been introduced or approved before now, given the prevalence of anti-smoking campaigns. He hopes the bill will "appease as many people as possible."
The county attorney's office will take the board's resolution to Richmond on Thursday for Local Government Day, Whitten said. They plan to seek support for the bill from state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg; Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock; Del. Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Winchester; and Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Marshall.
If approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell, the bill would become law on July 1.