The Van Buren Parks and Recreation Commission voted Monday night to recommend a ban of smoking tobacco products at city parks.
Commission members voted 5-0 to draft an ordinance with the help of Mayor Bob Freeman’s office to be submitted to the Van Buren City Council.
City Planner Joe Hurst said the parks and recreation commission will review the proposed ordinance at its April 3 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the city council room of the Municipal Complex.
The public is moving toward not smoking in parks, said Tyler Wood, a commission member and alderman on the city council.
“Our job is to have the best parks and I would like to see them both smoke-free and litter-free,” said commission member Debbie Thomas.
Since the idea of the smoking ban was announced, Hurst said he has had a number of calls. Most were opposed to smoking in parks, he said.
“This is our best move,” commission member Doug Young said. “We are not trying to make life hard on anyone who smokes … we may want to provide an area for smokers.”
John Pope, director of Keep Van Buren Beautiful, said a smoking area would need cigarette urns.
“They will need to be bolted to the ground or they will be stolen or turned over by vandals,” Pope said.
“We need to focus on our job to provide a healthy lifestyle,” Thomas said. “What we decide may not be popular.”
Chairman Michael Brammer and members Brandy Mosby, Thomas, Wood and Young voted to recommend the smoking ban.
Commission members agreed the smoking ban should be in place by the opening of Freedom Place in downtown Van Buren which is scheduled for mid-April.
“Freedom Place is coming along,” Hurst said. “The big structures are in place with only items like benches and trash cans to be considered.”
Commission members selected possible designs for the benches, trash cans and picnic tables. The panel also suggested dedicating the west pavilion to the Farmers Market while placing the picnic tables in the east pavilion for the public.
Hurst and Brammer also updated the commission on the three recent public hearings on trails, which included discussion of pedestrian and bike safety on roadways.
At the public hearings, Diane Morrison, director of the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, made available two maps showing current trails and a proposed multi-use regional trails plan for the River Valley. She also encouraged those attending to utilize a large piece of paper to list possible projects.
A master trails plan is expected to be released by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Young said the commission needs to “do something to fuel” the excitement the public hearings have generated.
Hurst agreed the commission must not lose the momentum.
“We need to pick a street and develop a bike lane,” he said. “Or, select an awareness campaign to improve the safety of our runners, bikers and walkers.”