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October 6, 2015

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Proposed code takes aim at smoking, bathing in Las Vegas parks


Steve Marcus

A view of the Huntridge Circle Park on Maryland Parkway south of Charleston Boulevard Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. Signs at the park say that it is only open Friday through Sunday and holidays. The city shut down the park in 2006 because of safety issues involving the homeless but it was reopened in 2011. STEVE MARCUS

Bob Coffin

Bob Coffin

Bob Beers

Bob Beers

Smoking in Las Vegas city parks soon may be illegal.

A new parks code introduced Wednesday also would prohibit the use of city park water features – not including those connected to a swimming pool – for bathing, showering or washing clothes.

If adopted, the code would replace one that is decades old, said Councilman Bob Coffin, who admitted he hadn’t yet read the entire draft. He cautioned, though, that the draft code “is only preliminary” and could change significantly before gaining approval of the City Council.

Councilman Bob Beers said most of the proposals also seemed to merely codify policies already adopted by the city. That said, he added, he did not agree with the proposed ban on smoking in city parks.

“I could see banning smoking in the teeter-totter section of a park where kids are playing; I could see banning it on artificial turf, but I know I would not be able to support the blanket criminalization of tobacco usage,” Beers added.

At the city Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, Kelly Schwarz, a parks employees, spoke about the proposed code. She said some council members who had been briefed had “very few questions” about it.

“No-smoking stayed in,” she added, referring to the proposed smoking ban.

A city spokesman said the Advisory Committee recommended the smoking ban after being asked by a group of young people who organize park cleanups and regularly find discarded cigarette butts.

Other activities banned in the proposed code include:

• Camping or lodging, except when it is permitted for city-sponsored activities or by recognized “nonprofit youth development” organizations. “Camping” includes “laying down on bedding for the purpose of sleeping”; using a tent or shelter to sleep in; or sleeping in a vehicle.

• Hitting golf balls, except where permitted.

• Glass drink containers.

• Remote-controlled planes or boats.

• Firearms or any weapons, unless permitted by the state or in connection with an event.

• Fireworks.

• Music “that is audible from a distance of 50 feet.”

• Other noise disturbances defined in the city’s Health and Safety code. One of those disturbances includes,“yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets.”

• Digging or staking, unless approved in connection with the use of tents, bounce houses or hot-air balloons.

The code also requires a permit for demonstrations, picnics or celebrations of 75 or more.

Some events will require organizers to purchase insurance beforehand. In those cases, the new code asks for general liability insurance of at least $1 million per occurrence and $2 million aggregate; alcohol liability insurance would be the same; and vehicle liability insurance (when an applicant’s vehicle is used for an event) would be $1 million.

Both Beers and Coffin said they had questions about those insurance amounts.

The proposed restrictions on using water features for bathing or washing clothes bring to mind an incident from November 2006, when two homeless men fought at downtown Las Vegas’ Huntridge Circle Park. The fight grew out of anger over some broken sprinkler heads; one man stabbed another to death; the killer received five to 12 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

Three years before that fight, the park’s award-winning redesign included water features for play on broiling summer days. By the time the stabbing had taken place, the park’s water play area had long since become a makeshift laundry for the homeless who used the showers and sprinklers to clean themselves and their clothes.

Coffin said parts of the draft code “give city marshals some tools to use when dealing with a lot of different issues.”

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