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Smoking ban proposed for Chattanooga's wooden walkways

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Attention smokers: you may not be able to light up on some of Chattanooga's scenic walkways if one councilman has his way.

We're talking about two hot spots-- The Walnut Street Bridge and the boardwalk at the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. District Nine Councilman Peter Murphy says the city has put too much money into both bridges to see them go up in flames. He says allowing people to smoke on them is just too risky.

The cigarette butts along the Walnut Street Bridge are proof smokers are discarding them on the wooden walkway. And it's not just there.

"I was walking on part of it when I saw somebody who was smoking," Chattanooga Councilman Peter Murphy said.

Murphy says it's problem on the recently built boardwalk at the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, too.

"I think the risk of fire to these board walks would be reduced substantially if people just don't smoke around them," Murphy said.

Channel 3 asked officials with the Chattanooga Fire Department if discarded cigarette butts could catch one of these wooden walkways on fire. They say it's not impossible, but not likely. However , they say if it hits some dry leaves or trash, it's a definite possibility. That's what Murphy says he's concerned about.

"I have nothing in particular against those who smoke but the issue becomes with this giant wooden beautiful board walk, what happens if a carelessly discarded cigarette is igniting a leaf and brush fire and the board walk catches fire,' Murphy said.

But, some smokers, like Kevin Camerden, say they're not buying it.

"It's a shame. I think that's blown out of proportion," Kevin Camerden said.

Others agree fire and wood are a dangerous pair.

"We have a lot of wood here. I believe in preserving this bridge," Deborah Godfrey said.

Murphy says the fire chief seems to be on board.

"This would be a difficult location to fight a fire so they'd rather not fight it if they can," Murphy said.

He says if the boardwalk did catch fire, it's so secluded it may be a while before it's reported. He says both locations are insured, but it would still be a long time before they'd be re-built if they were damaged.

City council will discuss the proposed ordinance Tuesday. Murphy wants "no smoking" signs posted, and those ignoring them fined.

Chattanooga Police told Channel 3 it would be like the "no littering" law if passed, saying they would enforce it if an officer witnessed someone breaking it.

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