The Highlands Ranch Metro District board of directors voted unanimously this past week to implement smoke-free zones at two area parks where smoking is seen as a problem, especially among teenagers.
Part of the problem, according to Carrie Ward, director of parks, recreation and open space, is stemming from the high amount of teenagers flocking to Falcon Park — adjacent to Highlands Ranch High School — during open-campus lunch periods.
“There have been several instances at Falcon Park and at the skate park at Redstone,” Ward said. “We have been working with the sheriff’s office, the school district and the HRCA to come up with the solution.”
That solution was to ban smoking within 50 feet of the playground, concessions, shelter and restrooms at Falcon Park and likewise within 50 feet of the skate park that is part of Redstone Park. The goal is to lessen the number of conflicts between other park users and the young adults and teenagers who are in the area using profane language and smoking around children and families.
The problem has not been limited to cigarettes. There were four drug paraphernalia or marijuana-related arrests involving juveniles between Dec. 1 and Jan. 30 at or adjacent to Falcon Park, according to Sgt. Ron Hanavan, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
“If they were just congregating, that would be fine, that’s what our parks are for,” Ward said. “The sheriff’s office has been monitoring Falcon Park closely. This will be a tool they can use to get the younger kids, under 18, out of that area by enforcing a no-smoking policy and really break up some of that other activity.”
Board member Carolyn Schierholz asked prior to the vote why the district doesn’t implement similar bans at parks adjacent to the other high schools in order to not be prejudicial, but as Ward pointed out, the problem really only exists at those two parks.
“I suggest you deal with the problem where it is happening and see what happens,” said Metro District General Manager Terry Nolan. “I would not recommend a wholesale ban of smoking. If somebody wants to go out to a park bench and nobody else is around and they want to have a smoke, they ought to be able to do that.”