After reviewing the results of a two-month public survey, the Cortez Parks, Recreation and Forestry advisory board voted Friday to bring a tobacco-free policy before the City Council.
In January, the parks department put out an online survey asking Montezuma County residents if they would support tobacco-free zones around city property, including public parks. Out of 865 responses, 492 people said they would strongly support a 50-foot smoke- and vapor-free perimeter around all city-owned buildings and outdoor recreation areas, making that the most popular option out of three surveyed. The board voted to bring that policy before the Cortez City Council at its next meeting.
Parks Director Dean Palmquist said the response exceeded his expectations. He had hoped to hear from 700 people before March 17.
“I wanted to make this a decision-making tool, so we’re clear-cut on what people would like to see,” he said.
Other options on the survey included making all city-owned property tobacco-free except in parking lots, and one that also banned smoking in parking lots. The survey also asked respondents whether they’ve been bothered by secondhand smoke or vapor on city property, to which about 54 percent answered “yes.” About 78 percent of the people who completed the survey lived in Cortez, while 6 percent were from Mancos, 10 percent from Dolores and 5 percent from somewhere else in the county.
In earlier meetings, the board agreed that any new rule about smoking near the parks would be a city policy, not a law, so it wouldn’t be enforced by police. But if it’s approved by the council, Palmquist said the department would pay to put up signs designating the smoke-free areas.
Dores Jay-Pang, a tobacco education and prevention coordinator for Montezuma County, attended the meeting on Friday to support restrictions.
“About 20 percent of high school children smoke already,” she said. “This will be wonderful to help show them not to smoke outside of their school or outside of their house.”
Palmquist and other members of the board said their primary concern in the tobacco-free policy was to protect children from secondhand smoke. Survey respondents made similar comments.
Board member Rachel Medina said the city should install trash cans for cigarette butts outside smoke-free areas to make sure people know where they’re allowed to smoke. Councilman Bob Archibeque agreed, saying unclear boundaries “create division, which creates hostility and anger.”
Palmquist said the new policy would take into account smokers’ and nonsmokers’ interests, but that it’s unlikely the city will be able to please everyone.
The suggested policy will come before the City Council on March 28.