Local health advocate raises idea of smoking ban in city parks, e-cigarette ban in certain city facilities
Walk your dog in the park? Sure. Toss a Frisbee around in the park? You bet. Conduct catapult-like experiments on a park Teeter Totter? Well . . . I’ll just say it unfortunately isn’t covered under my insurance policy. But what about smoking a cigarette in a Lawrence park? That may become the next interesting question for Lawrence city commissioners to tackle.
Smoking your standard tobacco cigarette in a city park is legal today. But an official with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is now suggesting the city ought to debate whether it should remain so. The question is also likely to expand to whether spectators at outdoor sporting events on city-owned property should be allowed to smoke, and whether e-cigarettes also should be banned at city facilities.
Erica Anderson, a new health promotion specialist with the health department, has begun asking about the issue at Lawrence City Hall, and earlier this week talked briefly with the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board about the topic. She hasn’t submitted a specific proposal for the city to consider yet, but said she’s working to develop one.
“For sure we want to get rid of e-cigarettes in recreation centers,” Anderson said. “We really want to look at changing the social norms around tobacco use.”
Anderson said the health department has received a grant related to the e-cigarette issue, and she expects that to be the group’s first area of focus. But she said banning smoking in parks is also on the list of areas she would like considered.
“That probably will be in our long-term plans,” Anderson said. “It would do a lot to help change the social norm.”
Anderson said a primary thought is that if children see fewer adults using tobacco or e-cigarettes, that perhaps they’ll be less likely to take up the smoking habit in the future. That’s why areas such as recreation centers, ball fields, parks and other areas that attract a lot of children are high on the list of places where she wants the city to consider tougher smoking policies.
The city’s current smoking ban, enacted in 2004, doesn’t really address e-cigarettes. Retailers of the devices have said that since the “smoke” emitted by the devices is actually water vapor, that they don’t create the same second-hand smoke type of concerns that cigarettes do. But Anderson, who previously was the program coordinator for Tobacco Free Kansas, said the science and possible health impacts of e-cigarettes aren’t yet very well understood.
As for smoking at an outdoor ball field, such as at soccer games or baseball games sponsored by the city, that currently is allowed, as long as you are not on the field of play, said Ernie Shaw, the leader of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. That means spectators along the sidelines or in the stands can smoke.
Where the issue goes from here will be interesting to watch. Anderson said she’s had a conversation with the city attorney’s office seeking more information about the city’s policies regarding smoking and e-cigarettes.
If any changes are to be made — such as banning smoking in parks — ultimately it will be up to the City Commission to make them. And given the time of year that we’re in, we’re in all likelihood talking about the next City Commission that will be elected at the April 7 elections.
Former Pachamamas building to become event gallery; downtown landlords looking at solar project for Mass. Street rooftops; park near 19th and Haskell set to honor firefighters, former Chief McSwain
• Let me just start with this: If I hit a golf ball into your wedding party, I’m sorry. But I hope you’ll let me play through. (I also hope you’re distracted enough that I’ll be able to steal a piece of cake.)
A wedding party along a beautiful Lawrence golf course is a service the country clubs in town have been offering forever and a day. But soon there will be another player in that market.
Longtime Lawrence financial planner Wayne McDaniel has finalized a deal to purchase the former Pachamamas restaurant building at 2161 Quail Creek Drive.
If you remember, before Pachamamas moved to its current downtown location on New Hampshire Street several years ago, it got started in a unique building behind the Hy-Vee at Clinton Parkway and Kasold.
The building backs up to part of the Alvamar Golf Course. (I think it backs up to the public course, but I get confused because with my swing I sometimes inadvertently play both courses in the same round.)
McDaniel plans to convert the building into Arterra Event Gallery. McDaniel said the business will host weddings, receptions, corporate events and anything else of that nature.
Work is starting now to remodel the inside to make it a bit more of a wide open space. Once that is completed, McDaniel said he expects the venue will be able to accommodate events of about 250 people.
McDaniel — who will continue to operate his McDaniel Knutson Financial Partners business — has hired a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the event gallery. He expects the facility will start hosting events in March.
McDaniel said the building, which has been empty for at least six years, has long intrigued him.
“I have always loved architecture and I have looked at that building for three or four years,” McDaniel said. “I would tell myself that I love that building, but I wish I could figure out some way to use it.”
McDaniel said upon some reflection he thought an event business would do well because the location is easy to get to, it has its own parking, and the building has a “rustic elegance” to it that should create a good ambiance for a variety of events.
I can only think of one potential downside to the location: It may cause my wife to start caddying my golf games. If she thinks there is a chance for cake, she’ll be there.
• An interesting place to be in future months may be atop the roof of Sunflower Bike Shop or Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. Both buildings are owned by groups led by longtime downtown landlords David and Susan Millstein.
The couple is working on an idea to put a large number of solar panels on their two buildings. Plans have been filed at City Hall for the Sunflower Bike and Outdoor Shop building, 804 Massachusetts St., and Susan confirmed to me that the Liberty Hall building also may be in the works.
According to the plans at City Hall, the Sunflower building could house about 60 solar panels on the roof. The only thing I know about electricity is that I’m not going to touch the red wire again, but I think that is a fairly sizable solar project.
Susan Millstein said David had more of the details and that the plans were still a bit in flux. But I hope to hear from him, and will pass along more details when I get them.
But it could be an interesting project for downtown. With the new hydroelectric power plant on the northern edge of downtown on the Kansas River, the area may have the makings to start marketing itself as a green energy district. (I’m not sure what a green energy district is, but it sure sounds like something you would market in today’s age.)
I’ve long thought the roofs of downtown buildings are destined to get more attention. I’ve thought it would be as rooftop dining areas, but perhaps it will be as solar panel fields. Or maybe they can be both. I could get a tan while I sip my cocktail.
• Town Talk will take a couple of days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return on Monday. But while we’re in the Thanksgiving mood, here is a brief item about how the city is getting closer to approving a project that would thank a group of public servants: firefighters.
Leaders with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department are set to forward a recommendation to city commissioners to use the park at 19th and Haskell to remember area firefighters.
The park currently doesn’t have a name, but rather is just a bit of an open field with some playground equipment and a basketball goal.
But the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is now recommending it be named Firefighters Remembrance Park. The idea came from Rachel McSwain, the widow of longtime Lawrence fire chief Jim McSwain.
The park is adjacent to the city’s firefighting training facility. Rachel McSwain said current Lawrence fire chief Mark Bradford had mentioned the idea to her at Chief McSwain’s funeral in 2008.
The plan is the park would have a plaque recognizing McSwain and his contributions to the city after serving 27 years as the city’s fire chief.
But in addition, other people will be allowed to make donations to the parks department to sponsor benches, trees or other park amenities in memory or recognition of firefighters. Each donation likely would come with its own plaque naming the firefighters being honored.
Parks leaders are finalizing some of those types of details and then plan to forward the recommendation for final approval by city commissioners.
Originally Rachel McSwain and her family had suggested naming the park after Chief McSwain. Parks and Recreation officials, however, pitched this broader idea to the family. When the city’s parks board recently gave its recommendation, a tearful McSwain said she was “thrilled” with the idea.
“All of the McSwain family has been very supportive of the idea,” Rachel said. “It is going to be great.”
Here’s hoping you all have a great and safe Thanksgiving, and that you get to thank everyone who is important to you.