Commission considers going smoke-free at playgounds

Warren’s Parks and Recreation Commission is considering making the city’s playgrounds smoke-free.

Mary Ann Nau, Parks and Recreation director, told commission members on Tuesday, “There is a huge emphasis now from the Department of Health (and) Penn State to prioritize healthy living and fitness into parks, and they have a program called Young Lungs at Play. We talked about trying to do something about smoking in the parks once before in this commission.”

She said the program was developed through Penn State Extension and requires an ordinance or resolution banning tobacco use.

“I’m not asking for a decision here today,” she said. “I’m just asking you… to take a look at some website information that I passed around. Children are hurt by second-hand smoke, and there is some information on exposure, and it’s pretty doggone simple.”

The Young Lungs at Play program would provide free signs when a comprehensive ordinance was put into effect.

“We have five total playgrounds in the neighborhood parks,” Nau said.

Jackie Angove, commission member, said, “It’s a no-brainer.”

Nau read a copy of a similar ordinance from Titusville, which spelled out who had authority to issue citations and fine amounts.

She added, “We are talking about the playground areas, we’re not talking about the entire parks.” She again asked commission members to think about it before the next meeting in August, and said, “Council would have to tackle the part about the ordinance, and they would need to have some compelling reason.”

Barb Babcock and Heidi Ekey of Whirley-DrinkWorks! updated the commission with plans for a fitness park. They discussed different types of exercise equipment that had been proposed in a public survey, naming options for the park, funding and grant options and a proposal to include a walking trail through the city.

City Planner David Hildebrand asked, “Is the equipment going to be just at one park?”

Babcock replied, “This year. We wanted a park that had a greater impact… and that would be the one we want to work on this year. So that would be one with eight to ten pieces (of exercise equipment.)”

Hildebrand expressed concern about lack of parking in the area, and Babcock said people using the park during the workday would probably be those who work downtown.

Nau noted, “At the June council meeting, they will have the minutes from this commission meeting… and they will get the gist of what the commission’s working on.”

Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz noted that council will want a more detailed report, but that the commission would be there to help. He said, “You’re in a great place. You’re in the right place at the right time.”

Nau said, “(This idea) is what makes recreation go around, really. You’ve got to have new ideas to keep up with the pace of what the trends are, and where Warren (needs) to go.”

Nau passed out copies of a letter from Barb Phillips of Warren asking for permission to repaint a sign and replace plants at Karen Bonnell Field at the end of Crescent Park. In the letter she wrote, “We are not asking the city for any financial assistance, we simply want to clean up the field that honors our friend.”

Commission Chairman Dennis Crandall said, “Well, I’m going to be the devil’s advocate… is it worth re-doing the sign? Is it more cost effective and a better idea to move that field down to Betts (Park) where there is more room? Right now that field can’t even be used.”

Holtz replied, “I could be mistaken,… I’m wondering if the thought is just to redo the sign as a memorial.”

Hildebrand said he could talk to the arborist about plantings, and Nau said she wanted to make sure someone from the commission coordinates the work, and a motion approving the plan was passed.

Regarding the Beaty project, Holtz said, “We went out for bids for a second time, and received bids (that) will go to council this month. The bids came in higher that the original budget. The city is trying to get the additional funding… to do the full project as planned. We are pretty positive that… the necessary funds… to re-doing both the tennis court and the basketball court, and also enlarging the basketball court. Right now we haven’t done anything but take bids, we think we’re on the trail to get it going.”

Hildebrand added that the project includes finishing an Americans with Disabilities Act trail at Beaty Playground.

Speaking of the upcoming summer program, Nau said, “Letters have been sent out to advise people that the summer parks program has been reduced to three from five programs,” and other information to keep commission members informed for when they speak to the public. She added that the information was added to the city’s website, and sent to everyone that was registered in the program last year. She said, “We wanted them to realize that there wouldn’t be a formal program at Mulberry and Defrees.”

Nau said the summer playground leaders would be trained in CPR and first aid on June 13. She also reported the pool is up and running.

Commission member Judy Wilson said, “Just to bring you up to date, I’m working on the sign (for Washington Park), and I have an amount now of $937 plus $75 to have it installed, so I started looking for funding now, and I’ve (received) $200,” with a promise of more. She added that the sign will be aluminum; a bronze sign would have cost $7,000.