Bangor crafting ordinance that would ban smoking in nearly 30 parks, facilities

Posted Dec. 21, 2012, at 1:40 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City staff is working to draft an ordinance that would ban smoking in certain city parks and facilities.

It has been a slow, careful process, according to Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette.

“Certainly this type of ordinance and policy is not something that we want to rush into,” Willette said Friday.

The Parks, Recreation and Harbor Committee has been weighing its options since a meeting in August, which was followed by a workshop and more committee meetings to hash out exactly how to roll out a potential ban and which parks might be included.

The committee eventually decided to propose a draft ordinance to the City Council’s Government Operations Committee on Oct. 1 that would prohibit tobacco use in all city parks and recreational facilities. The all-out ban proposal sparked discussion and debate, and the parks committee was sent back to the drawing board.

On Monday, the Parks and Recreation Committee met with the Government Operations Committee again, this time with a list of nearly 30 parks and facilities that would become tobacco-free, including Broadway Park, the city’s trail systems, Dakin Pool and more.

“[The parks committee’s] primary logic was that most of these areas include youth, either through athletic events or our own facilities,” Willette said.

Willette also presented a list of 11 facilities that would be excluded from the proposed tobacco ban, including Hannibal Hamlin Park, Pickering Square Park and West Market Square.

Councilors at Monday’s meeting were split in their feelings about the proposed ban.

Councilors Ben Sprague, Patricia Blanchette and Chairman Nelson Durgin voiced their support for the ban, citing their desire to promote public health and keep children away from secondhand smoke.

Councilors James Gallant and David Nealley expressed concerns about restricting the right of taxpayers to smoke on outdoor city property, even if they stand away from the general public while doing so.

“To me, it seems to be a paper ordinance more … than anything,” Gallant said. “I struggle with our ability to police this.”

Sprague argued that cities can’t put police on every street corner, but speed limits are still posted because municipalities want to “promote good behavior” and “the safety and wellness of all citizens.”

Nealley said he feels the government sometimes gets on the “slippery slope of playing health police.”

The Government Operations Committee voted to have Willette and other city staff members draft an ordinance for consideration by the committee, which then would suggest changes or forward it on to the full council for first reading.

A list of the parks and facilities that will be included or excluded from the potential tobacco ban may be viewed at http://www.bangormaine.gov/image_upload/SmokingParkbreakdown.pdf.

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