Young Lungs at Play
New signs discourage smoking in Waupaca’s parks
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department expanded its Young Lungs at Play initiative this spring.
This same signage went up around the athletic facilities at Swan Park around five years ago.
“We were getting complaints in 2011, specifically in Swan Park. Since we put the signs up, the complaints decreased,” said Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson.
Complaints about people smoking in areas where children play ball on the fields triggered the decision to place signs there.
In October 2014 city resident David Wood attended a meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board to ask if there was support for a smoking ban in all public parks.
A year later, he asked again.
“After speaking to the police department and talking to other Parks and Recreation departments, we decided to first start raising awareness with Young Lungs at Play,” Jenson said.
Ealier this year, the board recommended the expansion of that message to the playgrounds, shelters and athletic areas throughout its park system.
The signs went up this spring in conjunction with the May 1 opening of the city’s parks.
A healthy initiative grant the department received in 2011 paid for all the signs.
Sixth-grade students from Waupaca Middle School helped launch the latest effort.
On Friday, May 6, students visited South Park to present a banner they created.
“Each student made their own image,” Jenson said.
Those images then created a larger banner, which will hang at the Waupaca Recreation Center for some time to remind adults to not smoke where children are playing.
Several students explained why they do not want people to smoke where they play.
“Some little kids go to parks. If they see people going to parks smoking, they may think it’s cool and want to try it,” said Hannah Holterman. “Smoking is really bad for you. You can get cancer from it. Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe. It can cause lots of problems in your body.”
Leota Studzinski said their posters show what the students like to do at the parks and how they do not want people smoking around them when they are there.
Bryce Boldt said smoking may cause people to have bad lungs and cancer.
“It’s just bad. I do not like the smell of smoke at all,” he said.
If children see their parents smoke, they may think it is cool to do so, Boldt said.
Jenson said he reached out to Alan Konda, who teaches health at WMS, and asked him if WMS students could become part of the awareness campaign.
“Any time you get kids involved, they start talking about it at home with their families,” Jenson said.
Konda incorporated the poster project into the health curriculum he teaches the sixth graders.
“It was nice the class was able to put it together in about a month, a month and a half,” Jenson said.
He also appreciates the willingness of the school district to transport the students to South Park to help get the word out about the expansion of the the Young Lungs at Play idea.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department wants people who smoke to self police themselves.
“We’re asking smokers to really think twice about where they’re doing it in the parks,” Jenson said. “Maybe walk to a place where kids are not playing, away from the playground, shelter, athletic field.”
With numerous cigarette butts found in the city’s parks, department staff also remind those who smoke to put out their cigarettes and then throw them in the trash.
“We hate to see cigarette butts by the playgrounds,” Jenson said.