Several state parks set to close Monday
By JOSEPH SPECTOR
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- The state parks system is creating smoke-free areas and banning smoking around playgrounds and pools.
The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced Monday that smoke-free areas will be established around all state-owned playgrounds and pools, as well as other areas designated as no-smoking zones -- including many beaches, pavilions and outdoor seating areas.
In February, New York City banned smoking at its 1,700 public parks and beaches.
"State parks and historic sites should be healthy and clean places for our visitors, especially our youngest guests," state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said in a statement. "It makes sense to ensure all visitors have a place to go in our parks to enjoy fresh air."
The state-owned parks in New York City will become smoke free, state officials said, making it consistent with the city's policy.
New York's 127-year-old park system is the oldest in the nation. The parks and historic sites had 57 million visitors in 2011, and attendance has risen in recent years as the poor economy has led people to vacation closer to home.
The state parks will install signs at each outdoor location where smoking is prohibited. Smoking will continue to be allowed outdoors elsewhere within the 330,000-acre state park system, such as at state campsites. Smoking will be banned at many areas at Jones Beach on Long Island, but not on the beach itself.
The ban extends to most swimming areas in other parts of the state, such as at the Robert H. Treman and Buttermilk Falls state parks in the Finger Lakes. Smoking will be banned at the swimming areas in Hamlin Beach State Park in Monroe County, but allowed at other Hamlin park beaches were there is no swimming, according to the parks department.
Smoking will be banned on the pool decks at Bear Mountain, High Tor and Rockland Lake state parks in the Hudson Valley. It will also be banned at the playgrounds in Beaver Pond and Tallman Mountain state parks. The pool area at the FDR state park in Yorktown Heights will be smoke-free.
Smoking will be banned on the Walkway Over The Hudson in Poughkeepsie.
The parks department said staff will inform violators of the smoking ban. Those who refuse to comply could be fined and charged with disorderly conduct by State Park Police and other law-enforcement officials, state officials said.
Smoking is already prohibited inside all buildings within state parks and historic sites under New York's Clean Indoor Air Act, which was enacted in 1989 and updated in 2003 to include no smoking in bars and restaurants.
"Creating designated smoke-free zones in state parks will ensure that the millions of people who visit these sites each year will be able to enjoy outdoor activities in a safe and healthy environment," state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said in a statement.
The state released a list of designated non-smoking areas at each park. The list is available at www.nysparks.com and then by clicking on "press releases."
The parks system is going through upgrades. With about $1 billion in needed park repairs, the state budget approved March 30 includes $83 million for park projects, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week.
A list of the designated non-smoking areas is available on the State Parks' website.