By John Gutekunst – Parker Pioneer
The Parker Town Council heard a presentation Dec. 4 from area young people who would like to see smoking prohibited or restricted at Pop Harvey Park.
Members of the La Paz County Youth Tobacco Coalition, “Teen Solutions,” took turns at the podium asking that designated no-smoking areas be established at the park or that smoking be banned altogether. Their presentation including information posters made by the students themselves, as well as a container showing all the cigarette butts they had collected in the park in just one day.
The young people also presented the council with a petition supporting their proposal that had more than 100 signatures.
Tammy Minor, the group’s advisor from the La Paz County Tobacco Education and Prevention Program, said the students started this project on their own and had worked on it for more than a year.
The primary spokesperson for the group was Aubry Herrell, an eighth-grader at Wallace Junior High School. She told the council many young people start smoking at age 12. She said 3,900 kids start smoking each day.
Herrell said parks are established to promote healthy activities, and second-hand smoke causes all sorts of problems. She said she had been small children pick up discarded cigarette butts, stick them in their mouths, and pretend to be smoking.
Another student, Jamie Ching, said she had seen her nieces do this when she took them to the park. In addition to the problems associated with tobacco, she said no one knows where that butt had been or what had been on it prior to it being discarded.
At least, the students said receptacles specified for cigarettes and other tobacco products should be installed.
Herrell asked the council if they had any questions, and Councilwoman Mona Duran asked how this would be enforced. Herrell said the police could enforce it, with the public reporting incidents.
In a memo to the council, Town Clerk Candy Cockrell said she’d researched the matter and found El Mirage is the only community in Arizona with a section in the town code listing improper disposal of “flaming or glowing substances and cigarettes” as a violation. Fines are no less than $350 or more than $2,500 with a minimum community service of 50 hours. The code states that all areas on or within 300 feet on a city park, recreation area, or accompanying grounds are declared drug and tobacco free.
Duran asked Herrell what sort of success El Mirage has had in enforcing their ordinance. Herrell said she didn’t know.
Vice mayor Chris Boatwright asked about smokers’ rights. She noted the park is outdoors.
Herrell replied the park is a public area and there are children nearby. She said this should be a courtesy thing.
“Kids should come before smoking,” she said.
Minor told the council the students’ project was based on a similar program in Kingman. Students from the local tobacco coalition there made a similar presentation to the City Council. This led initially to the installation of receptacles for cigarette butts in city parks. Since then, the city has established designated smoking areas in the parks as a pilot program. Kingman council members have expressed reluctance for an outright ban due to the fact the parks are for public use.
Boatwright thanked the students for their presentation.
Minor told the Pioneer the students had made a similar presentation to the Parks & Recreation Committee. She said the committee has the matter on the agenda for their January 2013 meeting.
Minor added the Youth Tobacco Coalition is open to young people from ages 12 through 18.
Pop Harvey Park is located at Mohave Avenue and Agency Road in Parker. The park sees a lot o use by children. Players Ninth Street Youth Center and the Town of Parker’s splash pad are located in the park. A day care center, the Gingerbread House, is located across the street. The Parker Public Library is one block from the park, and Blake Primary School is two blocks away.