A ban on smoking in regional parks except in designated areas will go to the Metro Vancouver board for a final vote later this month.
The region’s parks committee voted 5-4 Wednesday to proceed with the tougher restrictions on smokers who use Metro-run parks, trails and beaches.
Committee chair Gayle Martin, a Langley City councillor, said the plan would leave it to Metro staff to define permitted smoking zones near where people spend long periods of time – beaches, shelters, reservable buildings and campsites.
“There would be no smoking anywhere in Metro Vancouver parks except for those designated smoking areas,” she said. “If you’re taking a walk on a trail, you will not be able to smoke.”
Martin, a smoker herself, was one of the four directors who opposed the new policy.
She argued a better approach would have been to define specific no-smoking zones to protect people in high-use areas but let smokers puff away everywhere else in Metro parks.
“I’ve never had one complaint about people smoking in regional parks,” Martin said.
Posting signs and other printed information on the policy would cost the region up to $23,000, if the recommendation is adopted by the board Sept. 24.
A Metro staff report estimated only 10 to 15 per cent of park-goers smoke and that most would likely voluntarily comply with the new restrictions without any extra spending on enforcement.
Smoking zones would only be designated where there is little risk of second-hand smoke exposure to others, smoking litter is contained and there is no risk of
Committee members in favour of the partial ban were Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean, Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson, Abbotsford Mayor George Peary, Delta Coun. Scott Hamilton and Langley Township Coun. Mel Kositsky.
The debate came after a presentation from the Canadian Cancer Society, which urged Metro to proceed with a ban.
“A comprehensive ban on tobacco use within regional parks would eliminate exposure of park users to second-hand smoke, protect the park environment from tobacco litter and reduce fire risk as a result of tobacco products,” society campaigner Brittney Parks said in a presentation.
The Wreck Beach Preservation Society opposed the smoking ban and a volunteer coordinator at Pacific Spirit Regional Park urged Metro to put the money to better uses.
The planned policy would also affect other regional parks like Tynehead, Campbell Valley, Lynn Headwaters and Belcarra regional parks, as well as some beaches, such as Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay and Sasamat Lake.
It was the third time in about a year the committee wrestled with the issue.
The committee had voted in June to advance the policy to Metro’s July board meeting, but Martin pulled the item from that agenda and sent it back to staff to gather more details on the costs and logistics.
Several cities across the region either partly or fully ban smoking in their municipal parks.