Smoke-free policy is set for Austin parks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2003

A tobacco-free policy at public parks was approved by the Austin Parks and Recreation Board Wednesday night.

The policy does not have the same strength an ordinance would have, but it does ask for citizens' cooperation in maintaining a tobacco-free environment.

Director Dennis Maschka talked with police department officials about the matter recently and was told that the police could not enforce a policy, only a city ordinance.

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Al Layman of Austin was present at the meeting for another matter, but spoke up during the discussion. He is an ex-smoker and said smoking outdoors should not be prohibited by ordinance.

"I don't smoke any longer, but I still have compassion for the people that are hooked," he said.

Board member Darlene Thaisen said a request would be enough.

"If we go with the policy, all we would need is some signage out there telling people we appreciate their cooperation," she said.

The board passed the policy unanimously.

Dave Cole of the Friends of the Hormel Nature Center announced the Nature Center will receive a state grant for $170,000 to be used for land acquisition.

That money brings the total set aside for the acquisition at $440,000. They need $550,000 to purchase the Adrian Gaard land, which is 62 acres located north of the Nature Center. An additional $200,000 will be needed for restoration.

The Nature Center was awarded the grant last year as well, but it was taken away by a veto from Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The board also approved details about the upcoming Nature Center deer hunt.

The archery hunt will take place Nov. 19-26. Applicants must have an archery license and a management tag plus pass a proficiency test, which will be offered by the Nature Center on one of three nights. There will be a $10 administrative fee.

Forty permits will be issued to hunters. They will be assigned one of 12 designated spots and a morning or afternoon time slot over one of two four-day periods.

There will be orientation meetings for hunters to go over the rules and a meeting for surrounding landowners.

The board also approved a request from Dolphin to ask for $75,000 from the Hormel Foundation. Of that amount, $65,000 would be used for land acquisition and $10,000 would be used to recarpet and upgrade the electrical system in the visitors' center.

Board member Richard Lees recognized member Dan Ball and Bob Wilson for their efforts putting green slats in the fences at the Riverland Complex. More than 7,000 slats were put in, mostly with a group of about 15 volunteer workers over a two-week period.

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at