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ACL Smoking Ban May Be Loosely Enforced

ACL concert goers in 2010
Photo by Sean Murphy
ACL concert goers in 2010

The city really, really doesn’t want you to smoke if you plan to attend the Austin City Limits music festival. Austin Parks and Recreation director Sara Hensley even said “please” during a news conference this morning. But there will be no parks rangers at the festival, and ACL organizers’ private security guards may not be actively hunting down those who do light up.

“We’re not going after the smokers,” Austin Parks and Recreation spokesman Victor Ovalle clarified on the telephone this afternoon. “We’re asking them to please help comply with the smoking and the fire ban in the park.”

“We’re really not trying to ruin anyone’s experience,” he said.

Because the smoking ban in parks is not a city ordinance, people can’t be fined for lighting up. But they can be asked to leave the park. If the smoker refuses, he or she could be issued a criminal trespass notice and be banned from city parks for a year.  

The Zilker Great Lawn is perhaps one of the greenest areas in the city right now, and tens of thousands of people walking around during the festival would likely extinguish any smoldering cigarette butts. That’s why the city’s biggest concern is smoking that occurs outside the festival gates. There will be park rangers there, and they will be asking people not to smoke.

But the city will be prohibiting parking along the MoPac access road during the concert. The sight of cars lined up along that street is a familiar sight during ACL. But the fire risk posed by putting a hot vehicle over bone dry grass is too great for local officials.

“The fire danger is so severe. We really are concerned about this,” City of Austin Transportation Department director Rob Spillar said. “A car, especially passenger cars that are lower to the ground, really run this risk.”

Spillar said “No Parking” signs will be up and traffic enforcement officers will be issuing tickets and having vehicles towed.

Capital Metro will be offering shuttles to ACL from Republic Square Park at 4th and Guadalupe Streets. There are several parking garages in that area.

Are you a nicotine addict? The Houston Press has five tongue-in-cheek alternatives. Yes, two of them literally involve tobacco in your cheek.     

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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