By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — After several attempts, city officials will again take up the matter of smoking in city parks, this time limiting a proposed ban to specific properties and events.
“Based on considerable discussion and other inputs the Committee Chair and staff recommend the Committee take a resolution to the Council that would ban all forms of smoking in a limited number of park and recreation facilities,” according to an agenda summary intended for Monday’s meeting of the parks and recreation committee.
The city’s parks and recreation department, chaired by council member Pat Peckham, also includes David Nutting, Gary Gisselman, Tom Neal, and Joe Gehin.
At a minimum, the following facilities would be included, according to city documents:
- Youth Sports Fields
- Sports Fields Seating Areas
- Swimming Pools
- Skateboard Park
- Enclosed Shelters
- Restroom Buildings
In addition, smoking would be banned from designated park areas for special events open to the public with no admission charge when events sponsors request it. The proposal also calls for a formal request to the public health and safety committee to propose a companion resolution that would close the sidewalk around The 400 Block to smoking when the park is being used for events.
Under the terms of the new proposal, event sponsors for special events which are open to the general public with paid admission could request that their events allow smoking in designated areas.
If the committee approves the proposal, the city attorney’s office would prepare an ordinance that is subject to full council approval.
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 in November 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.
Weeks later, the committee renewed discussion about a potential ban. At the Dec. 4 meeting, Neal said he believes there is room for compromise even though the total ban did not pass. “Smoking is a problem,” Neal said at the meeting, “and there are people with physical conditions that have negative physical reactions to cigarette smoke.”
Ultimately, committee members directed staff to look into purchasing cigarette butt receptacles for the entrances to park areas, but no further action was taken until now.