A proposed ordinance that would ban smoking and vaping in downtown Anchorage's Town Square Park and on Alaska Center for the Performing Arts property will be introduced at the Anchorage Assembly next week.
The proposal comes on the heels of the city's planned pruning of trees in the park, set to take place Thursday morning, which is aimed at increasing public safety.
"I think anybody that goes to Town Square realizes that there's a problem there," said Anchorage Assembly Chair Dick Traini, who submitted the ordinance.
For several years, the city has been looking at ways to curb illegal activity and disorderly behavior in the park, which sits in the heart of downtown Anchorage between Fifth and Sixth avenues and is connected to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.
"We have a lot of tourists coming through whose impression of Anchorage is what they see there," Traini said.
People using Spice, marijuana and tobacco in the park threaten the health and safety of visitors and residents, Traini said. "It's just easier to ban all those items."
The ordinance would ban smoking in Town Square Park and all Alaska Center for the Performing Arts property, including the "use of an electronic smoking device," or vaping.
Smoking or vaping in the park would be subject to a $50 fine.
Under Anchorage law, smoking is not allowed in the seating areas of outdoor arenas and stadiums, within 50 feet of a hospital or medical clinic, in the waiting areas of public transit depots and in all enclosed areas where people work.
However, vaping is only illegal in bars, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Renee Oistad, who noted that any other private business could establish this rule. "Otherwise, vaping is currently legal," she said.
While some argue over the relative safety of vaping compared to smoking, Traini said the proposal is a way to "take care of them in one swoop. Get it done with. We need to clean up Town Square," he said.
Traini said he does not have plans to introduce a vaping ban in any other areas of Anchorage.
The proposal is one way the city is looking to increase the accessibility of the park. On Thursday morning, the city will be "limbing and trimming" the park's trees on the Fifth Avenue side, said municipal spokesman Myer Hutchison. The goal is to increase visibility in the park, Hutchison said. "It's just a public safety issue."
The vaping and smoking ordinance will be introduced at the Assembly's Aug. 25 meeting. It will be heard on Sept. 15, when the public will be able to comment on the ordinance.