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City revisits park smoking ban (again)

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — City leaders will again discuss a proposed smoking ban for city parks, less than a week after a similar proposal was rejected by members of the Wausau City Council.

“Tobacco in city parks — Discussion and possible action on regulating the use of tobacco in city parks and on the River Edge Trail” appears on the agenda for Monday’s parks and recreation committee meeting. According to the agenda summary, the committee will consider a partial ban that would restrict tobacco use for certain areas.

The city’s parks and recreation department, chaired by council member Pat Peckham, also includes David Nutting, Gary Gisselman, Tom Neal, and Joe Gehin.

Staff research identified the most commonly restricted areas for such a ban would include playgrounds, youth sports fields, swimming pools, tubing hills, sledding hills, skateboard parks, shelters, restrooms, disc golf courses, outdoor ice rinks and the Sylvan Hill Bike Park.

High use or environmentally focused lands or facilities could also be included, such as The 400 Block, Paff Woods Nature Area, Barker-Stewart Island, the Eau Claire River Conservancy, Fern Island, Riverlife Wharf and the Riverlife Adirondack area, according to city documents.

The committee also seeks to ban smoking on the River Edge Trail, citing concerns that trail users come into close contact with one another when using certain portions of the corridor.

“If someone is smoking on a trail, the other users cannot avoid being exposed to the smoke other than by turning around, thereby not achieving the desired experience or destination,” the agenda summary reads.

A smoking ban was first proposed in August by city council member David Nutting and was approved by the parks and recreation committee before being forwarded to the full council. That proposal was rejected last Tuesday by a narrow margin.

The failed smoking ban, which would have included both cigarettes and vaping but not chewing tobacco, drew dozens of comments from both supporters and critics on various social media sites. The majority of voters in a non-scientific Wausau Pilot & Review poll, which drew nearly 1,200 votes, were against the ban. Results of the poll were sent to all council members and to Mayor Rob Mielke.

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