Esky says no to smoking in park

ESCANABA – The controversy of whether or not to ban smoking at a new playground in Escanaba was resolved at Thursday’s regular council meeting.

On Thursday, council voted 3-1 in favor of prohibiting smoking at the new John D. Besse Park constructed this summer on the corner of 8th Avenue South and South 30th Street.

In November, when administration was looking to apply city park rules to the new park – including no smoking within 100 feet of the playground – council defeated the motion in a 3-2 vote.

Council members Pat Baribeau and then Mayor Leo Evans voted in favor of the smoking ban. Council members Ron Beauchamp, Marc Tall and Pete Baker opposed the motion.

After reviewing the issue again in December, a new council – which now included Tall as mayor and Ralph Blasier filling Baker’s vacant seat – agreed to vote on the issue again on Jan. 2.

This time around, Blasier – who favored the smoking ban – was absent from Thursday’s council meeting, leaving four council members to decide the issue.

The motion passed when Tall decided to vote in favor of the ban along with supporters Baribeau and Evans.

Beauchamp was the lone member opposing the issue. He had commented earlier that his biggest concern was the smoking ban was “overreaching.”

Council’s 3-1 decision came after public comment from three adults and two children.

Nine-year-old Lukas Weaver, of Escanaba, spoke at the podium. At his side was his mother, Tara, from the health department’s Great Start program which worked to prevent smoking at city playgrounds.

Lukas, who has allergies and asthma, told council he doesn’t like the smell of cigarettes or cigarette butts. He asked council “to help protect us because we are the future.”

Four-year-old Dahlia Hartman, of Escanaba, and her mother, Amber, went to the podium to encourage council to vote in favor of the smoking ban at Besse Park. When the mother asked her daughter if she wanted smoking at the playground, the youngster replied, “No.”

Recreation Director Tom Penegor, who had updated council on the no-smoking ordinance last month, said he recently talked to Patt Besse, wife of the late John D. Besse. Penegor said she stated she was concerned about the issue and would not want smoking at the park.

The ordinance prohibiting smoking in specific areas in the city was approved by council in July 2011 to create a safer and healthier environment especially where children are present.

Smoking was banned within 100 feet of city buildings, nine playgrounds, six ball fields, the guarded beach area, Webster pool, and two ice rinks.

Council’s vote Thursday added the Besse playground to the no-smoking areas.