Oakland, California – The East Bay Regional Park District officials announced on Thursday that smoking is banned in the great outdoors of 65 East Bay regional parks. This measure is being taken in order to help keep the air clean and keep beaches, bays and wild lands free of cigarette butts that can harm fish and other animals.
According to the park’s officials, visitors will be barred from smoking anywhere in the area except for overnight campgrounds, which is different from previous restrictions. While this decision will surely turn the East Bay parks for good, it showed to be flexible enough for overnight campers to agree on it. Since the district allowed smoking in parks with only having a few restrictions such as a ban on high fire risk days, there’s no threat for frequent campers to stay and enjoy the night view from the park.
Park officials decided not to ban smoking on overnight camp sites because they think campers spend longer times in parks than day visitors. Considering that overnight camp sites are somewhat like homes for campers, people should be able to smoke in their own home if it pleases them.
In 2012 the district stated that people could only smoke marijuana 1,000 or more feet away from picnic grounds, parking lots and other common gathering places in parks. But now it is illegal to smoke marijuana joints and tobacco cigarettes in regional parks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
“We’re doing this for public health reasons, but also one of our primary missions is protecting our lands and the environment, and cigarette butts clearly can cause harm to fish and wildlife,” said Carolyn Jones, a park district spokeswoman.
Save the Bay, a clean bay program, as well as other health groups and environmental groups, pushed for the park to ban smoking, since they worried about cigarette butt pollution.
Environmental groups to the rescue
These groups claim that cigarette butts can be toxic to fish and wildlife, and it is also the most frequent type of litter picked up in the state’s annual coastal cleanup day. According to Allison Chan, Save the Bay’s clean bay program manager, adding that the cleanup crews found 10 cigarette butts per worker at the Martinez Regional Shoreline.
The banning will not apply to Regional Park employees, since the workers said they would waste too much time driving out of the area, which is some several square miles large, to take a smoke break.
This area, which is 113,000 acres wide, took longer to ban smoking from the area since the East Bay Park officials had received few public complaints about smokers.
Nonetheless, other areas like twenty-five East Bay cities and both Contra Costa and Alameda counties already ban smoking in recreation areas, as well as the Midpeninsula Open Space District, except in designated areas. Jones says violators will be given verbal warnings during an initial, undetermined grace period.
Source: East Bay Times