SOUTH HAVEN — Smoking tobacco products at South Haven city parks and beaches will soon become a thing of the past.
City council members on Monday voted to approve an ordinance to ban smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars or pipe that contain tobacco at all of the city’s 14 parks and beaches.
However, there is one slight reprieve for tobacco users – smoking will be allowed in designated areas at several of the larger parks and beaches, which include North Beach, South Beach, Riverfront Park and Stanley Johnston Park. In addition, municipal marinas will be exempt from the smoking ban.
The ban will take effect in 10 days. However, it is not the city’s intent to initially look for offenders and slap them with fines, according to City Manager Brian Dissette.
“It’s the city staff’s position to do as much as possible to notify the public through social media and other outreach efforts,” Dissette said.
For the next 30 days, the city will turn to Facebook, its website and other media outlets to let people know that smoking is no longer allowed at beaches and parks, except in designated areas. Signs will also be posted at the beaches and parks.
“We’re not actively pushing police officers to cite people right away,” Dissette said. “The idea for the next 30 days is to get the word out.”
Police can ultimately cite people for violating the new ordinance. First-time violators will be fined $50. “Then it ramps up,” Dissette warned. For instance, violators cited four or more times will be liable for up to a $500 fine.
Mayor Scott Smith said he liked the idea of having designated areas in some parks for people to light up, rather than go to a private property next to a park or beach to smoke.
“Let’s not force it (smoking) onto other neighbors’ property,” he said.
City council members voted 5-1 in favor of the smoking ban, with Steve Schlack posting the dissenting vote.
When the ordinance was first proposed two weeks ago, Schlack said he was against it.
“I’ve got mixed emotions. I’m a smoker,” he said at the council’s June 18 meeting. “I find this is probably going to be a nightmare (to enforce). I don’t want to put any more burden on our law enforcement officers.”
Some municipalities in West Michigan have banned smoking, such as Portage, Grand Haven Township, Ottawa County and Holland Township, while the city of Holland bans smoking in some of its parks.
The issue of whether to ban smoking in city-owned parks and beaches came about through the city’s parks commission, which in October 2017 recommended that use of tobacco products be banned.
“Over the years, staff has fielded many complaints of smoking on the city’s beaches and in our parks,” wrote Bill Hunter, public works director, in a memorandum to the city council. “Another complaint is that cigarette butts are littering the beaches and parks. This is an ongoing challenge that all waterfront communities face.”