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Smoking banned in city-owned parks

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission voted 7-0 on Monday night to ban smoking within city-owned parks, beaches and playgrounds.

After a public hearing and some minor tweaks, the commission adopted ordinance No. 690, which repeals Chapter 22, Article III of the Marquette City Code.

Section 22-60 formerly stated that smoking is prohibited in public places and deemed a nuisance. With the new amendment, that section now outlines specific city parks, beaches and playgrounds where the law will be enforced.

“I’m really happy to see that we moved forward with the prohibition on smoking in public parks and beaches some updates to that related ordinance,” commissioner Evan Bonsall said. “I think it’s a really positive step forward for the city.”

The new ordinance prohibits smoking on five city beaches, 20 city parks and within 100 feet of all city baseball and soccer fields, excluding private property.

Notable beaches and parks include Clark Lambros Park and Beach area, McCarty’s Cove, Picnic Rocks, South Beach, the Fit Strip, Founders Landing, Harlow Park, Mattson Lower Harbor Park, Presque Isle Park and more.

Tourist Park and its beach area are also on the list, with the exception of rented campsites. There was discussion of making exceptions for two downtown corridors, the Phil Niemisto Pocket Park and the Rosewood Walkway, but the Marquette Downtown Development Authority requested that city officials keep those two locations in the ordinance.

The city bike path was also up for discussion to include in the ordinance, but was left out for the time being.

Exceptions can also be made for ceremonial usage and special events by obtaining a special events permit.

The issue first came about at the July 20 Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting. One week later, the commission motioned 7-0 to draft a new smoking ordinance.

The initial draft ordinance made it to the commission at its Aug. 31 meeting, but a vote was pushed back to Monday after the commission agreed that it still needed some reworking and revision.

Section 22-66, which requires the posting of “no smoking” signage in all public entryways, was removed from the ordinance completely, due to state law already requiring posted signage.

Commissioner Sally Davis said she supports the initial ordinance, but would like to keep it open for improvement in the future.

“I really like the changes that have happened in this ordinance,” she said. “I’d like to think of it as a living document. It’s not going to be perfect, we will find some unintended consequences and the next time we take a look at it, we will improve it again and just work with it as it goes along. Eventually we’ll get to where we want to be, and maybe we already are.”

Commissioner Fred Stonehouse added that the city must be careful to not add too much to the ordinance in protecting public health interests.

“We have a pretty good little ordinance here,” he said. “It’s leaning forward, it’s the best leap forward the city of Marquette will have made for public health that I can ever remember.

“But the more we pile on, the more we think about, the bigger this becomes and now it’s an elephant. We don’t want to make an elephant. We want a nice little ordinance that’s going to move the city’s public health forward.

“We have that, and so I caution all of us that we don’t keep tacking things onto it. We can always go back and do that later. How’s it working, what do we need to change and keep that in mind.”

Questions were also raised at the commission meeting about how the new ordinance would be enforced.

“I think we’re all kind of charged with a little bit of enforcement,” Marquette Police Department police chief Blake Rieboldt said. “Ultimately we’re the ones that will be dealing with the actual issue of citations should that happen.

“But I think through a process of education, through a process of city staff, through signage which I think is important in certain areas, should enforcement be needed, is something we’ll all kind of evaluate and look for a strategy to deal with.

“Obviously, we’re not going to be hiding in the bushes looking for smokers, but I think ultimately right now, there’s nothing on the books as far as the teeth for enforcement, and I think that’s kind of what has happened here with the increase of the people using beaches, the littering issues, the drinking issues and everything. This is all kind of rolled into getting this ordinance in place.

“We’ll work with staff to formulate ways in which we think enforcement will be good. Obviously education, and kind of an easy, soft opening so to speak would be our main goal right now. Should violations occur and the individuals aren’t listening to reason, then enforcement would be an option, but we don’t have that right now.”

The full ordinance, along with its revisions and list of parks and beaches, can be viewed on the online agenda from Monday’s commission meeting at www.marquettemi.gov under the “Agendas/Minutes” tab.

Just one other item was on the agenda at Monday’s meeting, with the commission appointing Meagen Morrison to the Marquette Downtown Development Authority for a term expiring Jan. 1, 2025.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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