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County adopts new definitions for littering and smoking in county parks

Revised definitions of littering and smoking have been added to the County Code of Regulatory Ordinances section that covers such prohibitions in county parks and on county trails and pathways.

The changes also add a prohibition on destroying or defacing vegetation or other improvements, change the designation of the county official who can authorize digging or plowing, and prohibit the lighting of any fire during unsafe conditions. A pair of 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors votes approved the first reading and ordinance introduction March 24 and the second reading and adoption April 14. The changes will take effect May 14.

In December 2006 the county supervisors approved an ordinance to ban smoking in county parks and open space preserves and on county trails. The new amendment bans the carrying of a lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, or other smoking device containing tobacco or any other substance or the lighting of a pipe, cigar, cigarette, or other smoking device containing tobacco or any other substance.

The ordinance had already prohibited the ignition of any fire when the county had given the person notice that the geographic area in which a park is located is subject to a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service. That prohibition has been retained, and it will also now be prohibited to start any fire if the director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation has determined that it is not safe to start a fire.

The previous ordinance language preventing park or trail users from leaving or depositing any litter had been open to interpretation. The practice of intentionally placing recyclable bottles and cans outside of a trash can is covered under the new definition which prohibits leaving or depositing waste paper, metal cans, plastic or glass bottles, used smoking material, or any other trash.

“There’s a little more clarity in the definition,” said Department of Parks and Recreation director Brian Albright. “It clarifies what’s regarded as litter.”

Albright noted that the clarification of the prohibition does not prevent recycling in county parks. “There are recycle bins in the parks,” he said. “You’ve just got to put them in the containers.”

Albright added that the Department of Parks and Recreation is determining feasible locations to install solar-powered compactors of recyclable materials which would include computers to notify Department of Parks and Recreation staff when those bins were full, thus reducing county maintenance activity for recycling at county parks. “We’re looking to use them in some of the parks,” he said.

The new ordinance language also makes it illegal to disfigure, destroy, damage, remove, or tamper with any vegetation, natural material, or improvements in the park without the prior written approval of the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation or his designee.

The ordinance had prevented digging or plowing without the prior written authorization of the director of the county’s Department of Public Works. The replacement of “Director of Public Works” with “County Official” still gives the DPW director that authority for pathways while providing that authority to the Department of Parks and Recreation director for trails.

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