The city of Beaufort is considering tighter rules for public parks, including a smoking ban and a clarification of behavior rules for pets and their owners.
Staff recommended the changes, which were discussed Tuesday during the City Council work session. The proposal grew out of earlier discussions about rules for Pigeon Point Park.
Most of the proposals would make park rules clearer or more specific -- such as specifically listing cigarette butts in the section about litter, limiting pet leashes to 6 feet or requiring pet owners to be in control of their animals.
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Council members didn't agree with all the recommendations and suggested some additions, including a list of penalties for violations.
Councilman Mike Sutton said the proposed leash length might be too specific. He also said he wasn't sure if now is the time to ban smoking.
"I think smokers are self-policing for most part," he said, meaning they move away from crowds when lighting up.
When the city passed a ban on smoking in restaurants and businesses in 2008, council decided against banning smoking in outdoor seating areas.
Beaufort County is considering a smoking ban for all county-owned property, including parks.
Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. wanted clarification on the ban on drinking alcohol in parks since people sometimes order a drink at a restaurant and sit at tables in the waterfront park.
"I don't mind," he said. "I just want to make sure because I think people do that."
Alcohol consumption in the park -- except during certain events -- is indeed banned, and signs are posted outside restaurants reminding patrons they cannot partake beyond a certain point. Police Chief Matt Clancy said local and state laws prohibit drinking in most public areas.
O'Kelley also said the city struggles to enforce rules against skateboarding. Signs that say skateboarding is illegal are frequently stolen, presumably by teenagers who think it "makes for a great piece of wall art," city manager Scott Dadson said.
Since rule changes are being considered, Sutton also wants do away with a current ban on balloons in parks.
"Someone said they are environmental hazards," Councilwoman Donnie Beer explained.
"Well, there are people out there who are environmental hazards," Sutton replied.
Among the proposed changes for all parks are:
- Smoking would be banned.
- Grilling food would be banned, except with written city approval.
- Pet owners would be required to pick up their animals' waste.
- Littering would be expanded to include cigarette butts, and trash containers would be off-limits to event organizers.
- Pet must be on leashes no longer than 6 feet.
- Alcohol would be banned except with written city approval for events.
- Vehicles can only park in specified places.
- Vehicles cannot drive on park grounds, sidewalks or walkways, except motorized wheelchairs, public safety and maintenance equipment, or vehicles with written city approval.
A new section is proposed specifically for the Spanish Moss Trail. That includes:
- Vehicles are not allowed, except motorized wheelchairs, public safety and maintenance equipment.
- Hours are dawn to dusk.
- A 15 mph speed limit will be enforced.
- Fishing will be allowed only in designated areas.
- Horses are banned.
- The trail cannot be used for club or organization events, except with written city approval.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.