Wausau considers banning smoking in downtown parks

By:  Laura Schulte with Wausau Daily Herlad

Music lovers might soon have to leave The 400 Block during concerts on the square to smoke a cigarette. 

The Wausau Park and Recreation Committee debated this week whether to create an ordinance that would prohibit people from smoking on The 400 Block and surrounding sidewalks during big events, such as concerts. 

Committee member Tom Neal said that during recent concerts, he'd noticed that while people weren't smoking on the grass, the sidewalks surrounding the block were covered in cigarette butts and he had to walk through clouds of smoke to get to the trash cans. He thinks a ban in city parks would lead to healthier lives for many people in the community. 

"It's saying let's not normalize smoking in the eyes of youth," he said. "It should be seen as something that's not good to do." 

Bill Duncanson, director of the Marathon County parks and recreation department, agreed with Neal but suggested extending the ban to other parks such as the proposed park along the east riverfront and others with playgrounds. 

"We have to ask people to think about young lungs," Duncanson said. 

Duncanson cited an article from Chicago, where smoking in parks and harbors was banned in 2014 to improve health and reduce litter throughout the city.

As of now, Wausau has no ordinances regulating smoking in city parks such as The 400 Block. Event hosts are able to decide if they want to allow smoking. Hosts such as Wausau Events usually ask that attendees do not smoke on the grass. 

The committee didn't finalize any plans for a smoking ban, citing the need for more research. 

"This is a large issue," said committee member Gary Gisselman. "It should be under study in other cities that are adopting. We need further defining of what that motion would need going forward." 

The smoking ordinance will be revisited at the September meeting of the city park committee.

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