Superior’s Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a smoking ban in recreational spaces, but for two months commissioners have been at odds on how to implement it.
The Commission meets in special session Wednesday, Oct. 9, to try to sort out when and where smoking might still be allowed on city-controlled recreational property.
Councilor Brent Fennessey introduced the idea of smoke-free parks in July.
The one exemption that would be made is to allow indigenous people to use tobacco during Native American ceremonies.
“I am very worried about making sure that this Commission and Council gets that language around the rights of indigenous people correct,” Mayor Jim Paine said. “It has to really support the religious and ceremonial practices of Superior’s first peoples.”
However, the mayor was clear that should be the only exception to the ordinance that would ban smoking in parks, on trails and other recreational spaces.
Some councilors have said they would like to see other exceptions or designated smoking areas rather than an outright ban.
Fennessey said he sat down with Councilor Ruth Ludwig to determine where in city parks smoking areas could be established, and together, they determined there wasn’t a purpose to having a smoking area in a park.
“The one place that probably could use a smoking area is the Billings Park Civic Center,” Fennessey said. “They hold different events there. Their main competition is the Elks Club, who obviously allows smoking outside their area. The fear is that if we don’t allow that, we’re going to lose all of our business to the Elks.”
“The only concern I have is that I think go further,” Paine said. “I think there is very good work in here. I think we could strip out the Civic Center … I don’t believe they will lose significant amounts of revenue to the Elks. They would have the option of going a little bit further to the sidewalk if they needed to smoke.”
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle said she would like to see variances to allow smoking in Allouez and Bear Creek parks for the many adults that use those green spaces.
“I feel like we’re going from 0 to 100,” Van Sickle said.
To address concerns about events such as the pond hockey and dragon boat festival on Barker’s Island, the proposed ordinance would allow organizers to establish a smoking area for a fee to offset the cost of park staff setting it up, Fennessey said.
“We’re trying to make this ordinance work for as many people as possible,” he said.
Commissioner Brittany Markgren noted Fennessey forgot to mention that people who rent pavilions in city parks would also be able to establish smoking areas for their events.
That raised concerns for Linda Cadotte, parks, recreation and forestry director. She said with more than 100 pavilion rentals in Billings Park alone and other permitted events, it would take time away from other projects and the fee wouldn’t likely cover additional staff.
“If you’re going to ban it, ban it because setting up designated areas – if you look at a couple hours max – for 100-plus events, now you’re just taking away from others things that we’re not able to get to,” Cadotte said. She said she wasn’t opposed to permanent designated areas.
Terry Massoglia of Superior questioned what impact the ban would have on areas used primarily by adults, such as certain ballfields.
“When you’ve got the Little League field, the Bambino field, the city parks where you have playground equipment and stuff like that, that to me is a no-brainer,” Massoglia said. “But cutting my particular field of interest, softball field, where you have acres and acres of clear land … why are we trying to restrict a person’s rights to live their life like they want to. You’re taking away my freedom to choose.”
Fennessey disagreed that anything was being taken away, because no one is saying people can’t smoke. The city would merely not allow it in places designed for the enjoyment of kids and families.
“They can go out of the park to have their cigarette,” Commissioner Elizabeth Noren said.
Commissioner Gene Rosberg, a nonsmoker, said the city needs to respect all of the community, not just nonsmokers. He said he would have a hard time telling a smoker walking alone on the Millennium Trail in the Superior Municipal Forest that they couldn’t smoke there. He also had concerns about the cost it would create for the city to create smoking areas.
“I think we need to keep talking about this, but I don’t think we’re ready to pass this as is,” Rosberg said.
“I just personally think it’s too broad,” Councilor Keith Kern said. “It’s too overbearing on everything … I cannot support this the way it is written.”
While the Commission briefly considered adopting the ordinance, they voted to hold it in committee to discuss it further.
That discussion takes place at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 204 of the Government Center.