Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Smoke-free SoccerPlex in Germantown effective this Saturday

E-mail this article \ Print this article

The 736-acre South Germantown Recreational Park, home of the Maryland SoccerPlex, will be the county’s first completely smoke-free park effective Saturday, the start of spring soccer season.

Park staff and the Maryland Soccer Foundation, which operates the SoccerPlex, presented the proposal in February.

The county Parks Department is close to finalizing the rules for enforcing the new smoke-free policy, said South Germantown Park Manager Dean Turnbull.

Three signs announcing the entire venue as smoke-free will be erected at the park’s north and south entrances on Schaeffer Road and at the park’s entrance from Route 118, Turnbull said. Signs around the SoccerPlex will be posted that read ‘‘Smoke Opponents, Not Cigarettes.”

The ban will be enforced by Park police much like leash laws. Fines are not expected to be assessed immediately.

‘‘We’re trying to do this as a much more positive approach,” said Trish Heffelfinger, executive director of the Maryland Soccer Foundation, which operates the SoccerPlex. ‘‘I actually think we’re going to have people realize that this is in the best interest of the kids and we’re hoping for voluntary compliance.”

The park hosts more than one million visitors a year at its various attractions, including the SoccerPlex, the splash park, the miniature golf course, the King Barn Dairy Mooseum and Adventure Playground.

The county Parks Department instituted a voluntary tobacco-free policy for visitors to its facilities in 1997.

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, there are 517 municipalities nationwide that restrict smoking in public outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches and 265 municipalities that restrict smoking in outdoor venues.