Citing controversy over the issue, The City Park Board of Commissioners has yet to make a decision about whether or not people will be allowed to smoke in the park in the future.
An ad hoc committee was appointed last month to make a decision about a potential ban, according to Susan Hess, president of the board. But at a monthly meeting held Tuesday, she said the process has been more difficult than she anticipated.
“Smoking has been a topic that has been very inflammatory, much more so than I had expected,” Hess said. “They met and they thought they had something going, but it wasn’t completely acceptable to everybody.”
Hess said the ad hoc will meet again in November.
“We will make some recommendations which will be voted on probably before the end of the year,” Hess said.
Hess also announced a new member to the park’s board of directors, Bob Thomas.
Thomas is a professor and director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola University New Orleans.
“It’s good to be here,” Thomas told the board, adding that City Park was one of his “favorite” places. “I’m just really excited to be here.”
The board also recognized staff member Tony Biegas, the director of Athletic Service.
According to Becker, Biegas restored the Tad Gormley Stadium after Hurricane Katrina, in time for the 2006 high school football season and the Pan American stadium was restored in 2008.
“We are honored that Tony was recognized for his service to the park and to the whole sporting community here,” Becker said. “When we got back here (after Hurricane Katrina) and we had so few people, it was just Tony and two huge sports stadiums he tried to take care of so it’s a pretty phenomenal feat.”
Biegas thanked the board for the recognition, but said he was a little embarrassed.
“It’s just a little bit embarrassing because Bob (Becker) and George Parker and John Hopper and maybe a dozen of us were here in the park all doing the same thing so everybody should be singled out, not just me, so I appreciate it and thank you guys,” Biegas said.
The board also recognized Billy Bayle, the chief of police of the park, who retired on Oct. 19.
Becker said that Bayle had been an employee of the park for a total of 39 years, longer than anyone else, and served as chief of police for 22 years.
Becker announced that a bench in the park has been dedicated to Bayle for his service.
“The dedication and the service that he has provided to this park is really something very unique and special,” Becker said. “We are extremely proud of his service.”
Bayle said that it is very hard to leave the park.
“I really hate to leave the park, it’s not that I want to leave the park, it’s pretty much the profession of security and law enforcement, it wears on you a bit,” he said. “39 years is a pretty long time and it’s changed over the years, but the park is a great, great place.”
“I would put the park up against any place in the entire country; great people,” Bayle said.
Hess also mentioned that the park is preparing for the Voodoo Music and Arts Festival this weekend.
“It’s a very big deal for us and generates quite a lot of money for the park through sales tax and through rentals that the Voodoo company pays to us,” Hess said.
According to Andrea LeGrand, in charge of the park’s special events committee, the festival will feature an Uber Lounge for patrons coming to a from the festival as an alternative to parking.
“I think it’s great to have,” LeGrand said.