Council pushes for smoking ban
Mayou notes vandalism, litter in city parks
By Angie Landsverk
The discussion about a smoking ban in Waupaca’s parks will return to the city’s Parks and Recreation Board in February.
The meeting, open to the public, will begin at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in the council chambers.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson said he will bring different sample ordinances to the meeting.
He said the board “can review and make or not make a recommendation, and then it will go the council from there.”
City resident Dave Wood had asked the board in October 2014 whether there was support for such an idea.
Last month, he again attended a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board to reiterate why he originally brought up the topic.
Wood, the father of a 5 year old and a 3 year old, told the board his family spends a lot of time in Waupaca’s parks.
He sees people smoking in the parks, including those in their 20s while they are on playground equipment.
The Parks and Recreation Board recommended the council discuss a smoking ban in city parks.
During the Jan. 5 meeting of the common council, Jenson referred to a Dec. 29 memo he wrote to Mayor Brian Smith and the council.
In that memo, Jenson explained that a smoking ban in the parks was discussed in the past by staff and the Parks and Recreation Board, with no formal ordinances drafted or recommended.
He said the discussion began at a board meeting in August 2011, after the parks and rec office received a number of complaints that summer about smoking in parks, particularly at Swan Park.
As a result, Young Lungs at Play signs were posted around the ball diamonds, playground and concession area at Swan Park.
Jenson said this initiative, recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control, began in Pennsylvania.
“The idea behind posting the signs is to raise awareness and increase self-policing of smoking in public open spaces, especially where kids are gathering,” he wrote in his memo.
Jenson further said that since that August 2011 meeting, his staff has seen a decrease in smoking complaints and noticed people walking to less populated areas when they smoked.
“There are always a few exceptions, but the issue we had in 2011 at Swan Park has subsided since that time,” he wrote.
After the latest discussion at the Parks and Recreation Board level, his staff then planned to post Young Lungs at Play signs around all city park playgrounds and to monitor complaints and littering to gauge the impact of the signage.
Jenson also told the council the plan included working with elementary school classes to increase awareness, help implement the program and unveil the signs.
In addition, Parks and Recreation staff discussed the possibility of drafting an ordinance with both City Attorney John Hart and the police department.
After those discussions, as well as with conversations with park departments that have banned smoking in parks, Jenson recommended to expand the Young Lungs at Play initiative in the city instead of an ordinance.
He noted the police department’s limited resources and how smoking complaints have been rare since 2012.
“As a staff, we agree with the concept of a no smoking ordinance within our parks but feel that encouraging self-policing and raising awareness will be the most appropriate and effective way to combat the issue,” Jenson wrote.
However, members of the common council disagreed.
“Aaron, I’m not sure I agree,” Ald. Paul Mayou said.
Mayou said Wood brought the idea forward because he believes there is a problem.
Noting alcohol is not allowed in city parks, Mayou said he does not think the city wants people smoking cigarettes around children who are playing in parks.
He also brought up his concern about the number of young people congregating in Riverview Park, where they vandalize structures, litter and often remain there late into the night.
“I think if smoking is banned in the parks, it is a tool we could use to mitigate that situation,” Mayou said. “I’d like to see an ordinance.”
Ald. Alan Kjelland agreed with Mayou, noting the cost of signage would be the same, whether it is signs for Young Lungs at Play or for a complete ban.
“I think that this is something that your park board should look at,” the mayor said. “I think we should throw it back to the Park and Rec Board.”