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Gresham moves towards making parks smoke-free

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Council approves staff to create an ordinance for city parks that will prevent all tobacco use

KOIN 6 NEWS PHOTO - "Too many get hooked trying to be cool."This post has been updated from a previous version.

Tobacco products may soon be forbidden in Gresham parks, trails and open spaces after the City Council unanimously directed staff to create an ordinance during its Tuesday, March 14, meeting.

The decision, considered a priority on the current council work plan, was made thanks to prompting from concerned citizens.

"Doing what is best for families is one of the best resources we have for solving world problems," said Councilor Jerry Hinton. "I think this decision is a no-brainer. We don't want this in public spaces."

Smoking, smokeless tobacco and vaping will all be banned from parks across the community. After a six-month grace period, which will be spent educating people about the new rules, using those products in parks will result in fines up to $500.

"We need to set examples for young people," said Councilor Karylinn Echols. "Too many get hooked trying to be cool."

Bernard Seeger, director of Finance Management Services delivered a presentation on research done on the potential tobacco ordinance. The findings showed Gresham has lagged behind the rest of the state in tobacco-use regulations.

"In Oregon, as of this summer, 60 communities have adopted regulation," Seeger told council.

Of the 10 cities in Oregon with the largest populations, Gresham was the only one without any regulation of tobacco products in parks.

As the fourth-largest city in the state, it was the only one to allow smoking, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes/vaping. The rest had full or partial regulation. Across the country, 1,200 communities have enacted some sort of regulation.

Lee Dayfield, with Friends of Nadaka Park, was one of the community members who presented a testimonial in support of tobacco regulation.

"An ordinance is necessary because parks are supposed to be a place for healthy practices, which includes breathing fresh air."

Residents who testified brought up fears of fire in the coming dry months, bad examples for children, the eyesore of cigarette butts lying on the ground, and the health hazard second-hand smoke causes. Many of these were echoed during the presentation by city staff.

"I'm not worried about enforcement," said Dayfield. "Mothers will have no hesitation telling someone not to smoke."

If the ordinance is accepted then residents should expect to see signs in the parks informing about the new rule, which would be most likely enforced in the fall.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the ordinance had been passed. Gresham Council only directed staff to formulate an official version which will be voted upon during an upcomming meeting.