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Willmar amends tobacco policy to make clear vaping also forbidden in city parks

The city of Willmar Tobacco-Free Park Policy has been updated to forbid the use of all tobacco forms and devices in city parks. The Willmar City Council approved the updated policy at Monday's meeting.

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A sign at Minnegasco Park in Willmar alerts community members that the park is a tobacco-free area. The Willmar City Council approved the updated Willmar Tobacco-Free Park Policy on Monday to forbid the use of all tobacco forms and devices in city parks. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — A lot of activities take place in Willmar city parks, from baseball and basketball to running around on playgrounds and splashing though the splash pad. What isn't allowed though is smoking, or tobacco use of any kind.

The city has had a tobacco-free policy for its facilities, parks and properties since 2003, but it has not been updated in a decade. But like so much, tobacco use has moved with the times, especially with the advent of vaping.

"It has not been updated since 2010. Since then there have been many different tobacco usages and devices," said Willmar City Councilor Andrew Plowman.

To make sure there is no confusion around the policy, the council approved the amended policy which specifically lays out that the use of all forms of commercial tobacco use — vaping and e-cigarettes included — are prohibited at all times on city-owned park property. Smoking and tobacco use of any kind is also banned on the sidewalks, streets, parking garages and any other city-owned or -controlled property within 25 feet of a park.

"I think it is a good policy and it is time to change," said Councilor Rick Fagerlie.

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Councilors voted unanimously at Monday's council meeting to approve the amended policy.

Signage at all the city parks will be updated to reflect the new policy.

"The new signs will be put up at all the park facilities to deter people from using all types of tobacco," Plowman said. "It is designed to make things clear and transparent to understand."

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An example of what the new park signage could look like, asking people not to use tobacco products while in the parks. Graphic courtesy of city of Willmar

The Kandiyohi-Renville County Statewide Health Improvement Program and Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities will both be donating $500 toward the new signs.

"The dollars will cover the cost of 50 signs, which is enough to replace old signage and we will be brought up to current," Plowman said.

While there are no criminal consequences for not following the policy and the city relies on the public to voluntary follow the restrictions, Parks and Recreation staff can have a person removed from the park for not obeying the rules.

"It is usually a verbal warning or making people aware of the rules," said Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt.

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Those who have concerns about people using tobacco products in the parks can contact the Willmar Parks and Recreation Department.

For related stories, see Willmar City Council or Willmar Parks and Recreation .

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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