published Monday, November 21st, 2011

Chattanooga City Council considers smoking ban at South Chickamauga Greenway


by Cliff Hightower
Elwood Jackson walks in a serpentine section of the wooden bridge that comprises part of the South Chickamauga Creel Greenway in near-freezing temperatures. Jackson, who calls the greenway "beautiful," says he walks nearly three miles every day, "unless it's raining." The city of Chattanooga is considering a smoking ban on the greenway.
Elwood Jackson walks in a serpentine section of the wooden bridge that comprises part of the South Chickamauga Creel Greenway in near-freezing temperatures. Jackson, who calls the greenway "beautiful," says he walks nearly three miles every day, "unless it's raining." The city of Chattanooga is considering a smoking ban on the greenway.
Photo by Tracey Trumbull.
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WHAT'S NEXT


The City Council's Parks, Recreation, Education and Arts Committee will meet 3 p.m. Nov. 29 and discuss whether to ban smoking along city greenways.

Poll
Should smoking be allowed on the South Chickamauga Greenway?

Signs adorn South Chickamauga Greenway, telling users park rules and how far they've walked.

But the Chattanooga City Council is looking at putting another sign on the trail: "Thank you for not smoking."

"Anywhere there's a trail in the wooded outdoors, there should be nonsmoking," said Councilman Russell Gilbert, chairman of the Parks, Recreation, Education and Arts Committee.

The council could look at an ordinance that bans smoking along South Chickamauga Greenway in two weeks. Some proponents of the ban say it should even extend beyond the South Chickamauga Greenway to all city greenways.

Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation director, said he wants more meat in the ordinance to ban smoking on all greenways.

"It should be on all of our trails," he said. "Especially on greenways. It makes sense."

The action was spurred after Councilman Peter Murphy said he noticed some people smoking while on the trail a few weeks ago. He said leaf litter lay on the ground and the flick of a cigarette butt could have ignited a fire.

"You're basically laying it down in the woods where the leaves may or may not be wet," he said.

The new South Chickamauga Greenway could be particularly prone to fire, Murphy said, with a long wooden bridge that hugs the side of South Chickamauga Creek and at one point crosses it.

Leaves littered the bridge Thursday and a white cigarette butt lay in the middle, smashed against the wood.

Murphy said he thinks banning smoking on the bridge would be a minor inconvenience and signs would be enforcement enough.

"I think it would be posted extensively," Murphy said. "I think 99 percent of the world would comply with it."

Murphy also proposed banning smoking along the Walnut Street Bridge, which is made up from tip to tip of wooden planks.

Other city greenways affected would include a new portion of North Chickamauga Greenway just off Hixson Pike and trails in Greenway Farm.

The county has already banned smoking at Enterprise South Nature Park, said Ron Priddy, the county's director of parks and recreation.

Banning smoking in the park was an easy decision, he said.

  • photo
    Lawrence Zehnder, administrator of the City of Chattanooga department of parks and recreation
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"There's not enough water or fire hydrants in the park," he said. "It's also 2,800 acres of woods, so if there ever was a fire, it would be hard to control."

One location that would not see a ban is the Tennessee Riverwalk. Zehnder said he would have to talk to county officials about a nonsmoking ban in that area because it's jointly owned by the county and city.

Priddy said the county has never considered it, but would be open to discussion.

Chattanooga Fire Chief Randy Parker said he has found that high-pressure lumber, such as that used on the South Chickamauga Creek bridge, is not treated to be fire resistant. But he said the problem in the area is not necessarily the wooden structure itself, but its remoteness.

The fire department has some all-terrain vehicles to get into areas surrounding greenways to fight a fire, Parker said. But there have not been many instances of fires along greenways or other city-owned wooden structures, he said.

"We've had one fire on Walnut Street Bridge, but that's been a long time ago," he said.

If the bridges were to burn, the city could easily find the money to restore them, said Danny Thornton, interim director of general services.

Walnut Street Bridge is insured for up to $6.35 million and the bridge at South Chickamauga Creek Greenway would be covered by a $1 million policy that covers all other facilities that do not have individual coverage, he said.

"Anything not a high-profile location, we have blanket coverage," he said.

Bob Saylor, the city's parks director, said the cost of the bridge on South Chickamauga Creek Greenway is around $200,000.

While parts of the bridge are made of metal, the flooring is wood and the supports holding up the bridge are wood, he said. A fire along the supports would be devastating, he said, possibly causing a collapse.

"I hope and pray that never happens," he said.

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Emersization said...

Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation director, said he wants more meat in the ordinance to ban smoking on all greenways.

It is really unusual to address smoking on an exercise trail. This makes me wonder where the minds of the directors and commissioners are at. There are far greater concerns in Chattanooga, don't you think? Why don't you just put insurance on the bridge, and encourage people that are trying to kick the habit to exercise and get healthier?

November 21, 2011 at 2:39 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

"We've had one fire on Walnut Street Bridge, but that's been a long time ago," he said. Cigarette butts, I assume?

November 21, 2011 at 8:37 a.m.
TnFlash said...

Why not keep the laws simple and just ban smoking in all the public parks? We do not need cigarette butts on the ground and healthy people do not want to breath cigarette or cigar smoke, people trying to get healthy do not need it either and most certainly, people trying to quit do not need to be exposed to it. The signs are a good way to remind people to be courteous and not smoke.

November 21, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
TnFlash said...

A couple of more thoughts. There are a lot of leaves blowing around this time of year and they are easily combustible just as vegetation is during the dry periods of summer. I think it is a no brainier to post signs telling people that no smoking is allowed. The effectiveness of the signs should be evaluated one year later. If they are found to not be effective they need to be replaced with signs threatening citations. Since the parks should be available to the rich and poor, the citation penalties should not be monetary but directed at public park service such as picking up liter or doing trail maintenance.

November 21, 2011 at 10:39 a.m.
kathy said...

I think cigarettes should be outlawed period. No tax revenue for anyone. And while we are doing that, how about instead taxing obesity instead. Now that would certainly make Chattanooga shine. Outlaw all tobacco and alcohol products period in the city and at the same time tax all of the obese people 10% extra on all purchases. I bet that would encourage all to use the trails then, and since everything is banned in the city, I am sure we could cut some firemen, etc. a cost savings there. The parks should not have much litter so this should be a significant savings! Just this simple thing of outlawing products we should not be using anyway. What a brilliant idea!

November 21, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.
ginagirl43 said...

I'm all for it! Some make the world their ashtray.....vile.

November 21, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
GabrielMacy54 said...

Cigarette butt litter is a real nuisance and I agree that smoking should be banned in this case to prevent a disaster from happening. Anyway, one should enjoy the green environment and the fresh air while one is walking in such a wonderful park and should not think of lighting a smoke. By the way, I chanced upon some green smoke review websites that said e-cigs are smokeless and do not produce cigarette butts. They should think about encouraging all smokers to go for green smoke instead of the traditional form of smoking. http://www.e-cig-bargains.com

December 18, 2012 at 3:01 a.m.
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