By the time Bo Diddley Plaza is done being renovated, it will have new public restrooms. An information kiosk. A water wall entry feature. A green room. A second café space.
What it won’t have, though, is a “no smoking” sign.
That omission apparently irks some Gainesville residents. Barry Murphy has complained to city commissioners, while others say they are annoyed by the smoking that currently takes place there.
“I thought it might be a good time to address the issue of tobacco use and smoking on the Plaza and I wanted to get their [city commissioners’] input to see if it would be possible,” said Murphy, who has worked in health care for many years and who contacted commissioners about making the plaza smoke free.
“The community stands to gain the most from this because there will be less second hand exposure from tobacco smoke and have an impact on the youth and prevent the addiction from being passed on to the next generation.”
But Paul Folker, Gainesville assistant city manager, said the city’s hands are tied because state law does not allow it to ban smoking in the city’s parks – although, he said, “the city is assertive in prohibiting smoking in the public places they have say over.”
Currently the only places in Gainesville that have smoking bans are RTS bus stops, restaurants, and the University of Florida campus.
Nonetheless, many residents would like to see a smoking ban at Bo Diddley Plaza.
“During work breaks I like to go outside and sit on the benches and there’s always smoke and it’s annoying because I don’t even smoke myself,” said Alicia Becerra, an employee at the city courthouse across from Bo Diddley Plaza.
Murphy said he often goes to free Friday with his family so a smoking ban would greatly benefit him.
“I live a mile from Bo Diddley and I regularly go down to the free Friday events with my family and smoking is allowed at these.”
Diddley, the legendary blues man who called Gainesville home, would not be happy with people taking smoke breaks in the plaza named after him.
In a 2008 article in The Guardian, musician John Moore said, “he [Bo] said he’d never smoked in his life, that he didn’t like seeing young people smoke, and that I should quit.”
Moore ultimately quit smoking.
Folker said that even if the city cannot ban smoking in the plaza, it might be able to do some things to persuade people not to smoke.
One technique we have implemented in other city parks that we could do in the plaza is posting signs discouraging smoking and telling the risks of it,” he said. “We could even put on the sign history of who Bo Diddley is and what he stood for to reinforce this.”