Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) The Common Council narrowly voted down a proposed smoking ban for city parks at its Tuesday meeting.
A policy which prohibits smoking in sections of the parks has been in place since 2007 and was recently revised by the Parks & Recreation Committee to include all areas of the park except the parking lots, sidewalks, and other marked areas.
The proposed ordinance was brought forward in response to continual complaints the Parks and Recreation Department receives about smokers in parks to allow those complaints to be addressed by police.
“I’m a registered nurse. I hate smoking. I don’t do this myself, but I think this is a big overreach of governance,” said Alderman Rebecca Spiros. Aldermen Adam Fischer and Mike Feirer were also against the item.
Alderman Ken Bargender asked how the police department would enforce the ordinance if it were placed on the books. Police Chief Rick Gramza said there wouldn’t be an officer stationed at the parks, but they could enforce the ordinance during routine patrols or in the event of a complaint.
Alderman Spiros stated it was “ridiculous” to request a police officer to respond to a smoker in a park. “I’m pretty sure they have more important things to do than chase a smoker who will already be gone by the time they get there,” she said.
Alderman Tom Buttke said he often sees cigarette butts at the playground despite no-smoking signs that are in place. “I’m not a smoker either, but I think we should protect the kids and keep the parks looking as nice as they do,” he said.
Alderman Witzel said that protecting the right of someone to enjoy the parks may mean to some extent restricting the right of others to smoke.
“If we’re trying to provide family friendly opportunities, which I think is what the Wenzel Family Plaza about, and the zoo, and Wildwood Park, and the playgrounds, and eventually our aquatic center where it’s supposed to be family friendly,” he said, “I think that’s what we really need to looking at here, more than if someone has to step off to the sidewalk to burn one.”
Alderman Jockheck said, regarding families attending outdoor concerts, “It’s much easier I would think if you’re a smoker to go get your fix someplace else than to have a family who’s already there all of a sudden have someone sitting down smoking a cigarette next to them, being bothered by that, for them to move.”
The motion to ban smoking in public parks failed 5-4 due to lack of majority vote, with Alderman Peter Hendler absent.