Five months after voters banned smoking in all public buildings in the state, the Mandan Park Board decided to hold off until May 13 on deciding whether to make its public playgrounds tobacco-free.

Alicia Uhde, chairwoman of Go! Bismarck Mandan, asked the park board to approve the tobacco-free policy, saying “young children are impressionable and secondhand smoke is a health hazard to their growing bodies.”

Park board members debated whether the policy should be limited to playgrounds or whether it should include gated areas, ball parks and even golf courses. They agreed enforcement would be more difficult in more adult-oriented recreation areas.

Uhde said the organization could help pay for signs telling people not to smoke, through $40,000 in Achieve funds it received.

Park Board Member Tracy Porter said he supported the concept, but felt the park district should wait until May and allow the public to testify in case there is opposition.

“I feel it’s happening really fast. We should almost have some smokers in here giving us their side of the story and why they feel they are entitled to smoke outside. I am concerned that we are only hearing half of it,” he said.

“After giving them a chance to speak, I’d be willing to say all park district property,” Porter said. “That includes Prairie West (Golf Course) and Centennial Park.”

Park Board President Jason Arenz said where to limit smoking would be discussed. He said Parks and Recreation Director Cole Higlin and Go Bismarck Mandan would have to come back with recommendations.

“I think initially, the talk was just parks and gated areas. We could look at the bigger picture after that to see how the other locations go for us,” Arenz said.

Separately, the park board:

  • Gave its support for the Mandan Youth Commission to work out a recycling program under the guidance of Higlin.
  • Approved the final draft of the Living Tree Memorial Program, which allows family and friends to remember loved ones by paying to have a tree planted in their names.

Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.