Bill Palmiscno: Tobacco limits in parks will make Grand Forks a better place

By Bill Palmiscno
GRAND FORKS—At the April 6 meeting of the Grand Forks Park Board, the Park Board commissioners passed the first reading of the Park District Tobacco Usage Policy.
It reads as follows:
“No person shall use, chew, smoke, inhale e-cigarettes, or otherwise engage in the usage of tobacco or tobacco products within or on any playground, fitness center, arena, pool, Park District parks, baseball diamonds and outdoor tennis courts. Except for chewing tobacco products at Lincoln Golf Course, King Walk Golf Course and Ulland Park, all tobacco products and all tobacco usage is banned on all property owned, leased or managed by the Park District.”
The decision to implement the Tobacco Usage Ban Policy was not taken lightly. For the past two years, multiple concerned groups, including the Grand Forks Public Health Department, have been requesting a tobacco-free parks ordinance. The issue has been carefully reviewed and analyzed by the Park Board for years.
Here are three major factors that lead to the passing of the first reading of the Park District Tobacco Usage Policy.
▇ Grand Forks City Council ruling on Ordinance 4393
On Dec. 3, 2012, the city of Grand Forks passed the Smoke Free Workplace Ordinance 4393; the ordinance went into effect a few days later. This Grand Forks ordinance and the state of North Dakota’s ruling prohibits smoking on golf courses and softball fields.
Ordinance 4393 also includes “public places,” which made reference to public parks but not playgrounds.
▇ Overwhelming community support for tobacco-free parks
In April 2014, the Park Board was presented with a third-party, scientific survey showing community attitudes and perceptions towards a Comprehensive Tobacco-Free Parks Policy. Key findings can be found in the appendix or online at, the website of the Grand Forks Tobacco Free Coalition.
▇ Commitment to being community leaders in health and wellness
The mission of the Grand Forks Park District is to provide the best parks, programs, facilities, forestry services and other services possible to promote a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle for all citizens of Grand Forks. The Park Board is committed to keeping our mission at the heart of every decision made.
The goal of implementing the Tobacco Usage Policy is to prevent our children from being exposed to addictive behavior in public areas where families frequent, such as parks, playgrounds and youth fields. The Park Board does not want to restrict the rights of adults, hence the decision to allow chewing tobacco products in our adult-focused activity areas such as Lincoln Golf Course, King’s Walk Golf Course and Ulland Park.
We truly believe the decision to implement the Tobacco Usage Policy is in the best interest of Grand Forks residents.