In an attempt to make his city more family-friendly, the mayor of Wisconsin Dells is pushing for a ban on smoking, specifically in the downtown area.
“You'll see a lot cigarette butts, and it leads to trash and some blight,” Mayor Brian Landers said.
You can see the butts everywhere along Broadway, wedged between sidewalk cracks and sometimes in the potted plants along the road.
Landers said an ordinance brought to the city council Monday night will start by banning smoking in city parks and on paths and trails owned and run by the city. That includes space like the city’s Riverwalk.
Council members unanimously passed the ordinance after its first reading. The new rules will be finalized at another meeting in a couple of weeks.
“We've taken on a lot of initiatives to showcase our downtown and the natural scenery that we have around us, and it’s just not a pleasant area to be around if someone is smoking around you,” Landers said.
Police will start ticketing for people lighting up in parks as soon as September, fining those smokers up to $85 per offense. The new restrictions would be advertised with signage, Landers said.
"I've had a lot of people reach out to me, businesses and citizens, as well as visitors that say they would find our downtown and our parks and our Riverwalk more enjoyable if we banned smoking on them," Landers said.
Landers said he’d like the city to assess the first step, and then consider a smoking ban on all public property downtown sometime this winter. That would include sidewalks.
Landers said he expects bars and taverns along Broadway to be concerned about any change in smoking policies, since customers usually can’t smoke in most of those establishments.
Don Martell, a lifelong smoker who lives in Wisconsin Dells and frequents downtown, does not agree with the mayor’s proposal. He said he properly disposes of his cigarettes and is polite when families pass on the street outside of the restaurants and bars he patronizes.
“It is kind of degrading to come out here,” Martell said, “Kids are going by, you're smoking cigarettes, and you kind of snuff them and you kind of respect the, you know, I don't want to blow smoke in kids’ faces and stuff.”
Landers added if the smoking ban was implemented in the entire downtown area, there would likely be space set aside for smokers.
“I do believe we would accommodate the smokers that come to our community as well by having smoking areas or smoking zones and putting different places within our area that allows them to continue to smoke, but doesn't really come out to the extent where a lot of our families and children are present too,” Landers said.