A Bridge to Nowhere

Boise State smokers looking to light up in Julia Davis better keep on walking


Boise's anti-smoking ordinances have been enacted, but the city is still awaiting that early February date of real enforcement. Until then, Boise Police officers are issuing warnings to citizens errantly puffing where they shouldn't.

One Boise locale was smoke free well before the ban went into effect on Jan. 2--Boise State was the largest contiguous smoke-free region in the city limits. Now it buttresses an almost entirely smoke-free city park.

When Boise State went smoke free in 2010, students wandered over the Friendship Bridge to Julia Davis Park in order to light up.

"In the past, officers have gone over and talked to folks about smoking on the bridge," said Jo Ann Gilpin with Boise State campus security. "But we haven't had any real major problems yet."

The park side of the bridge once served as a meeting place for smokers, but now the same spot includes a large "no smoking" sign.

Amelia Phillips, an international business major at Boise State, asked for a lighter as she stood near the sign.

"I've always just smoked right here," said Phillips, gesturing to the newly installed sign, which includes a map of the park and in a large red banner at the top reads "Designated Smoking Area." The map indicated the smoking area was on the opposite side of the park.

The city recently moved the smoking area in Julia Davis--from where it used to sit, near the entrance of the park through Third Street--to a more remote location, near the park's paddle boat facility. A smoker from the Boise State campus would have to walk not only past the zoo, but over yet another bridge that crosses a stream bisecting the park.

Phillips headed off with her cigarette to the smoking area--asking for her trek to be timed--as Ryan McHugh walked across Friendship Bridge, smoke trailing from the Marlboro in his hand. He paused to look at the sign and kept walking.

"It takes me more than my 30-minute break in between classes to walk there, smoke and get back," said McHugh.

Nearby two more smokers stood near the banks of the river. They paused for a moment, each putting a cigarette to their lips, assuming they were safe from the city and the university.

"I guess if you put your feet in the river that would keep you out of trouble," said Phillips, returning from her smoke break on the other side of the park--20 minutes later.

Lauren Thomas with Boise State's Department of Health Services said the university's goal is to work with the city on making sure the butts stay doused.

"We talked with the city about their new policy and how it's going to affect our students who normally go into the park to smoke," she said.

The university won't issue citations like the city's forthcoming $69 ticket for smoking infractions. Instead, Thomas said, they will try "to work with students and faculty smokers."

Boise State punishments begin with a verbal warning, then a written warning, and then a punishment based on a student's status with the university. Visitors to the campus who light up might receive a "letter of exclusion"--basically a trespassing citation.

Gilpin said Boise State's smoke-free campus included the Friendship Bridge, but right across the span, where the bridge meets Julia Davis park, the smoking continued, and until the city starts handing out citations in February, it will stay the hangout for puffing students.