In their final Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 21, Gravenhurst council voted to bring in a new by-law that bans the release of balloons and sky lanterns anywhere in the district. Council is hoping to get the word out about the ban and encourage other municipalities across the province to follow suit.
Melissa Halford, Director of Developmental Services explained that in April a motion was adopted with the intention to ban the release of balloons and sky lanterns, in consultation with the Gravenhurst Environmental Advisory Committee and a requested that a report be prepared.
Kristen Ford Bickers, Manager of By-Law Services presented some of the analysis from her report.
“The flight of balloons and sky lanterns are uncontrolled when released into the atmosphere. When they eventually land, they can end up anywhere, causing injury, harm or death to livestock, wildlife or domestic animals through digestion, entanglement or strangulation. They have the potential to cause electrical fires or dangerous power outages and potentially pollute waterways, natural habitats and lands.”
Ford Bickers explained that this did not fall under the existing littering by-law and that a standalone by-law was recommended.
“Administration prepared a by-law which specifically defines and prohibits the releasing of balloons within the Town of Gravenhurst, allowing for clear offences and enforcement. The intent of this by-law is to regulate the intentional release of balloons usually related to celebrations and ceremonies,” she said.
A by-law was also prepared to amend the open-air burn by-law to prohibit the use of sky lanterns in order to take a “proactive approach to prevent the dangerous litter caused by these products and the potential for fire hazards.”
Deputy mayor Heidi Lorenz thanked staff for the report and said she was glad that this important first step had been taken.
“I don’t know that there are many places around Ontario that have taken this step before.” She noted that bans had been implemented in some southern U.S. states and that “hopefully this will get the ball rolling.”
Lorenz said she has seen balloons while out hiking or camping and knows that there aren’t balloon releases happening every day, but that “it is important to get the message out that you are harming the environment…and that this is out of fashion.”
Coun. Jo Morphy asked what kinds of fines or enforcements would be in place with this by-law. Ford-Bickers said there would be set fines, but that they would not be determined until after the by-law was in place.
Lorenz suggested that spreading the word to businesses that were connected to events and venues such as resorts would be helpful.
Lorenz also noted that the by-law didn’t include anything about circulating it to neighbouring municipalities and urged council to make sure that word got out.
“But further, I would like to see this banned across Ontario, I think that would be a big feather in Gravenhurst’s cap.”
The motion was passed unanimously. The next council meeting is January 18 at 3:00p.m.
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