Matt Driscoll

Nothing more annoying than drones. Except vaping. Ban them both from Tacoma parks

Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park now open to the public

Get a first look at the new Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.
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Get a first look at the new Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.

After giving it some thought, I can’t think of anything more annoying than drones.

On second thought, scratch that. Vaping definitely takes the cake. It’s the worst.

However you personally rank them, there’s little question that both represent a civilization in its end stages.

The technological advancements that have made both amateur drone pilots and vaping possible are clearly evidence we’re plodding toward our ultimate destiny — which, it should come as no surprise, will probably look a lot like the plot of “Idiocracy.” (If you haven’t seen the 2006 Mike Judge movie, don’t. It will hit a little too close to home.)

So, with an apology to everyone I’m about to offend and the subscriptions this will end, it has to be said: The proposed changes to Metro Parks code — which would forbid both vaping and droning in Tacoma parks — are long overdue.

If we won’t stop, let Metro Parks save us from ourselves.

Recently, my colleague Allison Needles reported on the situation. Metro Parks is currently looking for comments on the suggested changes — which also include banning sky lanterns and motorized model cars, cycles, trucks or watercraft — and by September the parks board is expected to consider them.

If they’re passed, the changes will be off to the Tacoma City Council for final approval.

According to Peter Mayer, the deputy director of Metro Parks, the changes are designed to “help ensure all park users and guests can enjoy their experience.”

Mayer cites “the development of new parks and facilities” along with “significant population growth and changing use trends” as reasons for the proposals.

Admittedly, I have no clue what a sky lantern is. I’ll Google them as soon as I’m done here.

When it comes to vaping and drones, though?

Here are two more reasons to consider:

Both are gross.

Plus, they look stupid.

Case closed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a strong likelihood some of the proposed changes will draw criticism and constructive critiques.

For instance, Metro Parks is proposing a crack down on non-temporary “structures,” which for those playing at home is bureaucratic code for homeless encampments.

It’s a regulation that’s likely well-intentioned, but only so long as the city has — and maintains — a legal, reasonable and accessible place for those experiencing homelessness to go. Take one look at the tents and structures at People’s Park on Hilltop, and it’s clear the problems facing the city aren’t a result of lax codes. They’re due to things like skyrocketing rents and a nonexistent safety net.

Frustrating or not, simply banning non-temporary “structures” trends toward criminalizing homelessness, which basic human decency and court rulings should tell us is a no-no.

But that’s a serious column for another day.

Right now, dear reader, we’re talking about vaping and drones.

As a columnist with his finger on the pulse of this community, I say good riddance to both.

Vaping, of course, presents health concerns. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 3 million kids in middle school and high school use e-cigarettes. As National Public Radio reported in June, “Public health advocates and officials worry these sales could be an emerging disaster, reversing years of declines in smoking.”

On the positive side, vaping has helped a lot of folks quit smoking.

On the other hand, vape pens sometimes blow up in your face.

Tough call.

The drawback to drones, on the other hand, is less concrete.

Do they cause cancer? Probably not. Do they pose an imminent and emerging threat to public health? Seems unlikely.

Here’s what I don’t need someone who’s been to medical school to tell me, however:

There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a walk in your favorite park or an afternoon in your own backyard only to encounter some yahoo with a drone buzzing your personal space.

Amirite?

Of course I am right.

I clearly know what’s best for you.

All of this brings us full circle, back to the point of Metro Parks’ proposed changes.

This is about ensuring some of our most beloved and shared public spaces remain enjoyable for all — and if that means the parks department has to serve as the arbiter of proper etiquette, so be it.

Personally, I look forward to a day without drones and vape plumes in Tacoma’s parks.

It will be reason to celebrate.

Now, who wants to join me at Wright Park for some Pokemon GO?

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.
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