By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

After lengthy debate, the Keizer Parks Advisory board determined that parks users will be able to use drones in Keizer parks, but only in designated areas.

The conversation about drones was part of a larger discussion about updating Keizer’s park rules. Other new additions include a ban on smoking and vaping in parks as well as revised fines for violation of park rules. The revised rules will need to be discussed and formally adopted by the city council before taking effect.

Drone talk got off the ground at the board’s May meeting and continued at the meeting Tuesday, June 12. Board members attempted to walk the line between an outright ban of the devices and allowing them to be used in ways that are unintrusive to other parks users. Anyone who has flown drones in Keizer parks up to this point has been in violation of city ordinance, which was part of the problem.

“If someone brought a drone out during a concert, that would be illegal. Most don’t realize it’s illegal,” said Board Member Matt Lawyer.

Board members attempted to project some of the possible outcomes of any new policy, but it often led back to the same place.

“I think enforcing this is above and beyond what is already enforced is above and beyond what the city can do – unless we say no drones in the park, period,” said Donna Bradley, board member. “The city should back off, let it happen and see if it becomes a nuisance.”

One of the issues the board attempted to navigate was recent complaints to city staff about drone operators dive-bombing dogs at the Keizer Rapids dog park as well as some other park users. While those instances have been limited, Board Member Dylan Juran sided with Bradley with different reasoning.

“Should we ban (drones) just because it is new and scary? I think that with responsible recommendations of rule-following, people should be allowed to do it,” Juran said.

Under the revised rules, drone pilots will need to abide by all applicable Federal Aviation Administration laws and advisories, and only fly in spaces established by city officials. There were no official recommendations from the board as far as what should constitute a “drone zone” in a park, but the open space inside the walking path on the west side of Keizer Rapids Park was repeatedly mentioned as one possibility.