Board says no to tobacco-free ordinance
By Brian L. Gray
With existing non-smoking policies already in place, the Mandan Park Board decided not to enforce a proposed park-wide tobacco-free ordinance.
The request to ban tobacco from city parks came from Go Bismarck-Mandan in April, which was looking to use grant money to place signage in the city’s parks enforcing the ordinance.
Two motions were dismissed by the park board before it came to a consensus. The first motion sought to ban all property owned by the park district, except for the golf courses and parking lots, which failed on a 4-1 vote. Another motion that sought to ban tobacco use entirely on park district property died due to a lack of a second.
The third motion came from Park Board President Jason Arenz, who stepped down from his position to make the motion. His motion to endorse the district’s current policy to ban tobacco use at Dacotah Centennial Park, Memorial Ballpark, the Raging Rivers and during youth baseball, was met with unanimous approval.
“I am against smoking. I don’t believe in it, but I also believe a lot of this comes down to common sense,” Arenz said. “I don’t think we should approve ordinances at any facilities at this point because we haven’t had any complaints.”
Before taking any action, the park board had residents take an online survey on the proposed ordinance. Of the 293 that responded, the majority said they were in favor of the ordinance, while continuing to allow tobacco use in parking lots and golf courses.
Mandan resident Shawna Laber spoke in favor of the ordinance. She said that any places that are designated as a family activity location should not allow tobacco use.
“For the same reason we don’t allow ads of smoking in kids magazines, as a correlation we shouldn’t allow smoking in parks where kids play,” she said.
Leiber’s daughter, 10-year-old Zara Laber, also spoke in favor of the ordinance. “I do not like people to smoke near parks because I like to play and want everyone to be safe,” she said.
Parks Director Cole Higlin said that smoking bans are already in place in several of the city parks, including Dakotah Centennial Park, and those were put into place because of past complaints.
Parks Manager Mike Zerr said most people already keep tobacco usage away from areas where children are present, so this is not much of an issue. “It’s always those few people who smoke in the stands, and we have to tell them to put it out, but 99 percent of the time there isn’t a problem,” Zerr said.
Park commissioner Tracy Porter agreed. “There’s something to be said of ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’” he said. “That’s not to mean a year or two down the road it won’t come back up again. But right now, why make an issue of something that at this time is not an issue.”