Air Quality

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward, left, seen during a news conference May 14 at the Carlson Center, has proposed making borough parks smoke free — including cigarettes and vaping — punishable by a $50 fine. 

The borough mayor has proposed making borough parks smoke-free — that includes cigarettes and vaping — punishable by a fine of $50.

State law was bolstered in 2018, and smoking is prohibited in the seating area of outdoor sports arenas and within 10 feet of playground equipment when children are present.

Borough Mayor Bryce Ward’s measure would forbid smoking at “any Fairbanks North Star Borough park or area of a park posted ‘smoking prohibited by law — fine $50.’”

The measure states that the parks “shall be determined by the borough Parks and Recreation Department in consultation with the Parks and Recreation Commission.”

Borough code does not cover smoking or vaping except where it applies to the tobacco distribution excise tax.

The idea for a local prohibition came up as officials were deciding where to post signs in compliance with the new state law, Ward said.

“Since the law was changed and all facilities are required to be posted with the appropriate state signage, the question arose for facilities such as Pioneer Park. Do we post for each building (there are a lot) or the facility as a whole?” Ward wrote in an email.

“We have received a small number of comments in the past regarding smoking in parks (mainly during large events) and felt it was more manageable to do the whole park.”

Then the question arose, “If we do it for Pioneer Park, should we also do it for our other parks?” Ward wrote.

He asked the parks and recreation commission what it thought.

Linda Unsicker, a member of the commission, said the panel voted unanimously in October to recommend “no vaping or smoking in any of the borough’s parks,” she said in an email.

Borough Parks and Recreation Director Mike Bork said the measure reinforces state law at the local level.

“This was really meant to boost what Gov. Walker put into place, and the commission felt it was a good move to protect users of the parks,” Bork said in an email.

City police, Alaska State Troopers and the borough’s code enforcement officer could impose the fine, Ward said.

The assembly is planning to discuss the measure in committee Dec. 5 and hold a public hearing Dec. 12.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.