Did you know you're allowed to kill venomous snakes in Bethlehem's city parks --- but you should not throw balls or Frisbees, wade in streams, climb trees, walk your dog or ride your bicycle on trails?
Saying many of Bethlehem's park rules are antiquated, City Council member Karen Dolan tore into them Tuesday night.
She said it is time for a large scale overhaul of the city's park ordinance containing those rules.
"There's no signage that supports 90 percent of what's in here," she said of the ordinance.
Dolan, who chairs council's parks and public property committee, hopes by summer the full City Council will approve an updated parks ordinance.
She said Ralph Carp, Bethlehem's parks and public property director, has been trying for years to get City Council to take a fresh look at city park rules.
"This is the governing ordinance for the operation of all city parks," Carp told the committee. "The last time I can identify a full comprehensive update of this was roughly around 1976.
"Times have changed. People's recreational needs and likes have changed. Many areas of the ordinance are not in step with the times or with the desires of residents and users of the parks."
Dolan said the next step in the process will be for her committee to hold at least one public work session on park rules, where members will sit around a table "and hammer out some changes" in a conference room rather than on the dais in Town Hall. She hopes that work session that can be held later this month.
She said the city's recreation commission already has weighed in on needed changes in the park ordinance at least a year ago, but a decision was made to delay action until the new city administration took over in January.
Carp suggested the recreation commission also might want to take a fresh look at the ordinance. Jane Persa, the city's recreation administrator, agreed, saying the recreation commission has a couple of new members. She said that commission will next meet on April 17.
Dolan challenged language in the ordinance that states no animals may be killed in parks, except snakes "known to be deadly poisonous," which can be killed on sight.
"I don't think that's even legal," said Dolan. She said most people don't know which snakes are deadly and which are not. She claimed killing snakes on sight no longer is acceptable under current environmental laws.
Dolan questioned language in the ordinance that prohibits climbing a tree or sitting on a wall in a city park.
Another rule prohibits playing "any games involving thrown or otherwise propelled objects such as balls, quoits, stones, arrows, javelins or model airplanes, except in areas set apart for such forms of recreation."
"There's definitely a difference between a ball and an arrow," said Dolan. "I see people tossing baseballs back and forth at picnics all the time."
She also claimed when the rules were drawn up there were no Frisbee flying discs, although they have been popular since the early 1960s.
She also sees horseshoes being played in parks, but the rules are silent about them.
The rules prohibit swimming or wading in any park waters. Dolan noted anglers wade in streams, as do families with children in hot weather, which she considers a good amenity to have in the city.
Dolan said the rules prohibit boating, but said she sees people kayaking and rafting down Monocacy Creek, which means "you are going to come through a park. That happens several times a week during warm weather."
The rules also state bicycles should be confined to park roads and that people can only walk their bikes on wooded trails. Dolan recommended shared use of trails for joggers, pedestrians and cycling.
The rules state dogs are allowed only in areas with signs that state: "Domestic Animals Permitted in This Area."
"There are dogs on leashes in all the parks," said the council member.
She said people are allowed to picnic or lunch only in designated park areas but added: "I'm not sure what places are designated or not designated."
The rules prohibit alcoholic beverages in any city park, except Illick's Mill ---Dolan said that should be Monocacy Park -- Saucon and South Mountain.