By Paul Kruze
Hear audio of meeting: http://www.mediafire.com/file/bo4c5wwv6k6tmcb/SanteeSPARC12142017Meeting.mp3
December 21, 2017 (Santee) -- Cigarette smokers in our region may end up with one less place to smoke if the Santee City Council approves a recommendation of the Santee Park and Recreation Committee (SPARC) to ban smoking on its numerous hiking trails located within the city limits. Smoking would still be allowed in public parks, leaving Santee the last city in San Diego County to still allow smoking in public parks, although the city does restrict smoking to designated areas during special events.
Smoking marijuana, however, will remain prohibited in Santee parks, although the state is set to decriminalize use on January 1 after voters passed Proposition 64 legalizing the public recreational use and commercial purchase of marijuana.
Prior to the unanimous 8-0 vote by Santee’s City Council last week, the committee listened to a presentation by Santee Solutions Coalition Coordinator Lisa Bridges. She cited recent statistics gathered by the community organization that indicate an overwhelmingly number of survey respondents agree that smoke-free parks and recreation centers make for healthier environments. The Coalition also found that an overwhelming belief that cigarette smoke and vaping devices present unhealthy conditions.
Most of the members of the SPARC committee agreed with banning smoking on hiking trails though some members, such as Dustin Trotter, felt that the ban was an overreach. “People should have the choice to do as they please. At any given time, you shouldn’t be disrespecting a person’s personal space. It’s a little bit of a slippery slope here because we put this out there – what is next?” he asked.
Several speakers during the public comment portion, as well as a member of the committee, Rusty Williams, asked the committee to go a step further and ban smoking in all Santee city parks. However, the group’s consensus only went as far to recommend prohibiting smoking on the area’s trails.
Dana Stevens of Communty Action Service Advocacy said, “I would really urge you to consider not stopping with just the trails. It’s like putting a seat belt just over your shoulders and not buckling it. Public safety is the city’s number one commitment – even more so than paving the streets. The parks here are such an investment in this community. Don’t stop with just the trails. Keep the parks the place families want to be,” she said. “The personal freedom of just a few don’t override the safety of the vast, vast, majority.”
Santana High School student Sarah Shoudy also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in favor of a complete ban.
Santee Fire Chief, Richard Smith, expressed his support for the measure via a letter that was read during the meeting by committee member Bill Maertz. Not only was Smith supportive of the measure to closing Santee trails to smokers, he also said that the ban should extend to e-cigarettes or vapes, which are powered with lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-Ion batteries have been known to spontaneously explode. According to data compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration, vapes have caused 200 cases known cases of spontaneous combustion in the past year.
“The banning of smoking will also lessen the threat of wildfires,” the Fire Chief said.
Santee Mayor, John Minto, is expected to side with the proponents of the trail ban when it is considered in January by the Santee City Council.
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