The St. Clair Board of Aldermen unanimously approved an ordinance Monday night that limits smoking, alcoholic beverages and drugs at parks.
The ordinance prohibits intoxicated people and those under the influence of drugs from being at city parks, and bans illegal drugs and underage drinking and smoking. It also does not allow smoking or vaping within 25 feet of any buildings, pavilions, stages, playgrounds, splash park, gazebos or restrooms in any city park.
Alderwoman Amanda Sikes said smoking is still allowed while playing disc golf and on walking trails.
“It’s just an effort to make our parks more family friendly,” Sikes said. “It’s just to keep a little bit more litter outside of our parks where children play.”
Alcohol, smoking and vaping are allowed when parties rent out pavilions for private events and at events hosted by the city or other organizations that have been approved by the city or park board.
City Administrator Travis Dierker said a similar ordinance was passed in Union. Dierker stated he has worked with City Attorney Kurt Voss to customize it for St. Clair. Alderman Art Viehland asked if the ordinance could include a cleanup deposit for parties renting pavilions rather than charging them after an event if the area rented is not cleaned up.
Sikes said if an event was held over a weekend and maintenance crews do not go into work until that Monday, it is hard to determine what may have taken place between the end of the event and the following Monday.
“It’s kind of hard to tell who’s responsible for that — is the only reason why that needs a little bit more review and conversation before we implement something like that — just to figure out how to make that fair,” Sikes said.
Mayor Ron Blum said there is a cleanup deposit for using the community center and posed that a similar requirement be added to the applications for renting park pavilions and gazebos.
Alderwoman Janet Viehland asked why there is an intoxication section in the ordinance if there is already a city intoxication law. Police Chief Bill Hammack said there is not a law for just being intoxicated.
“It’s not illegal to be intoxicated,” Hammack said. “Let’s say four people leave a bar and you have a designated driver. If you have a public intoxication (law), that would mean that anybody who’s intoxicated walking to their car would be in violation.”
He added that there’s a disorderly conduct law where if someone is intoxicated and behaving in a disorderly manner, that person could be arrested and cited.
Charlene Saling, executive director of the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce, asked if the ordinance would stop people from bringing coolers in for the organization’s Food Truck Fridays.
“The wording of the ordinance as it stands does not prohibit consuming alcohol in the park, just public intoxication,” Sikes said. “As long as they don’t drink to where someone would feel that they were intoxicated and pose a potential threat to families or children.”
Janet Viehland asked if someone believed another person was intoxicated and posing a threat would they call the police. Sikes and Dierker said that ordinance gives the ability for people to call the police in that scenario.
Below is the full wording of the ordinance.
1. No person in any city park shall be allowed to remain in or enter a city park in an intoxicated condition or under the influence of drugs at any time.
2. No illegal drugs of any kind will be permitted in any city park at any time; except for prescription drugs legally in the possession of a person.
3. No person under age 21 shall possess or consume any intoxicating beverage or tobacco product in any city park. No person shall smoke or use an electronic vape device within 25 feet of any buildings, pavilions, stages, playgrounds, splash park, gazebos or restrooms at any time in any city park.
Nor shall any person smoke or use an electric vape device within 25 feet of any sports field or its surrounds during any scheduled or organized sporting event, game or tournament at any time in any city park.
A sports field or its surrounds shall include any fence or area used for player/public seating and considered part of the field of play which include dugouts, outfields, infields and foul territory for baseball/softball areas and the playing field and sidelines within 25 feet of any soccer or football field, concession stand, seating area or walking paths.
4. Parties renting any pavilion for a private party event shall be privileged to allow alcohol, smoking or the use of electronic vapor devices for that private party within the rented area only but shall be liable for cleanup and damages from same.
5. Events hosted by the city of St. Clair, St. Clair Parks Board or other approved event in the city park may allow smoking or alcoholic beverages if approved by the St. Clair Board of Aldermen or St. Clair Park Board as park of their event application.
6. Violation of this ordinance shall be unlawful and shall be an offense punishable according to the code of ordinances of the city of St. Clair.