Debate over whether to prohibit smoking at certain events at Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park ensued Wednesday night as park officials discussed plans for the annual Parkfest, a series of outdoor concerts conducted during the summer.
The parks department teams up every year with the Greencastle Civic League by providing space at the city park for the event. In the past, smokers who attended the events could light up unrestricted, but there is a push by some officials to make those concerts smoke free.
Park board member Leslie Hanson says she doesn't see why Parkfest can't be smoke free since smoking is already prohibited at Emerald Palace -- the children's playground -- as well as the tennis courts and the park's aquatic center.
But Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk says there's a reason for prohibiting smoking at those three locations, and it's not because of the health issues associated with secondhand smoke.
State law, Weinschenk says, is why the city pool has been deemed smoke free. As for the Emerald Palace and the tennis courts, it's a matter of fire safety.
Weinschenk pointed out that the wood chips placed underneath the children's playground are highly flammable and the tennis courts are considered a fire risk as well. He said he doesn't want the park board to make Parkfest smoke free unless it gets the approval of the Civic League.
At least one member of the park board agreed.
Dr. John Hennette says he isn't comfortable legislating such issues as an appointed member of the park board. He said he is personally opposed to all forms of tobacco use and wouldn't oppose a smoking ban, however, he doesn't want to be the one to make the decision.
"I think there's a place of making a recommendation, but I'm not comfortable in saying (Parkfest) should be smoke free," Hennette said.
Also at the meeting, City Councilman Russ Evans pointed out that smoking is already prohibited in city buildings and in city vehicles. He and fellow council members could be faced with an ordinance banning smoking across the city when they meet next Tuesday night.
The issue of smoking is nothing new for members of the park board. In June of 2005, they debated the same issue, and with similar results. At the time, Weinschenk said he thought a ban on smoking at Parkfest and at the city's July 4 festivities was too big of a step for the park board to take.
Wednesday night, Hanson said she thought a smoking ban was a "small step" toward encouraging healthy activities.
"That's our job as members of the park board," Hanson said.
As was the case in 2005, park board members made no decision during Wednesday night's meeting except to say they would wait to hear from the Civic League.
Hanson said she would be willing to take the issue to the city council.