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Fairmont July 4th Balloon Release in Sonoma

I just sent this letter to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn after the company's float released about 15 - 20 balloons in front of the grand stand during the July 4th parade. Inexcusable!
July 4, 2013
 
 
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa
P.O. Box 1447, 100 Boyes Blvd.
Sonoma, CA 95476
 
Re: Sonoma July 4th Parade Balloon Release
 
Dear Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa,
 
The Sonoma Fourth of July parade is a wonderful small-town family event that I have attended many times over the 25 years that I've lived in Sonoma.  I appreciate that the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa and other wine country enterprises often join the fun with a float or other colorful entry.  I enjoyed the parade again today.
 
I was stunned, however, when the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa entry released 15 to 20 balloons into the sky right in front of City Hall at the reviewing stand. Releasing balloons into the air is a serious environmental and pollution hazard that causes harm to wildlife that might ingest it or get entangled. This was an inexcusable and thoughtless act that shocked me and many of the people sitting around me. I jumped out of my seat and raised my concern with one of the women walking with the float, and she said she agreed with me. I sat down, not wanting to create a spectacle.

Personally, I thought that balloon releases were recognized as problematic several decades ago. The state of California mylar balloon releases. Recently the city of Fairfax, CA, also banned latex balloon releases due to the deadly consequences to fish and wildlife. A news report on the 2012 ban explained that "the balloon industry calls latex balloons “biodegradable” while ignoring the time it takes latex to biodegrade (which could be up to a year in the water) and the risks latex creates in nature." See story attached below.
 The Fairfax city staff report on the issue stated that:
The environmental reality is that balloons, even latex balloons or those promoted as “biodegradable,” are often mistaken for food by marine creatures, and that the ribbons used to tie them can become entangled in birds’ breaks, and around the necks of birds and both land and marine animals.

Two weeks ago, I pulled a mylar balloon out of a tree in the high country of Yosemite.  It said "Happy Valentine's Day."

So today I am writing to strongly urge the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn to ban balloon releases from any future parade entries as well as from any function that it might hold at the resort in Boyes Hot Springs.  In fact the entire Fairmont chain should consider a policy banning balloon releases.
I also urge the City of Sonoma, and the Sonoma Community Center to prohibit balloon releases in any future Fourth of July parades or for any outdoor event or activity.
Thank you for your consideration and prompt attention to this matter.

 
Teri Shore
515 Hopkins St.
Sonoma, CA 95476
terishore@gmail.com
707 938 3469
 
CC: Sonoma Community Center, City Council Member Ken Brown, City of Sonoma
 
 
Fairfax Council OK's Ban on the Release of Latex Balloons
New Fairfax ordinance prohibits the release of latex balloons, a "quick thrill" to humans that could have deadly consequences for fish and wildlife, ban supporters say.
Posted by Jessica Mullins (Editor), August 3, 2012 at 12:31 am

Releasing latex balloons in Fairfax is now equivalent to littering.
The Fairfax Town Council on Wednesday night adopted an ordinance prohibiting the release of latex balloons in town to protect fish and wildlife.
Fairfax resident Mimi Newton, chair of the town’s Open Space Committee and a staff attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency, originally asked the council to ban latex balloon releases, citing concerns about environmental impacts.
“While releasing thousands of balloons in the air might provide a quick thrill for humans, it is the start of years of potential trouble for the rest of the planet’s inhabitants,” Newton wrote in the town’s staff report.
Mylar balloon releases are already prohibited in California, but the balloon industry calls latex balloons “biodegradable” while ignoring the time it takes latex to biodegrade (which could be up to a year in the water) and the risks latex creates in nature, according to the staff report:
“The environmental reality is that balloons, even latex balloons or those promoted as “biodegradable,” are often mistaken for food by marine creatures, and that the ribbons used to tie them can become entangled in birds’ breaks, and around the necks of birds and both land and marine animals.”
A balloon may look like a jellyfish to a turtle and may resemble a squid to a whale, according to Newton.
In the staff report, Newton said that while latex balloons that rise to an altitude of 5 miles will become brittle and shatter into many pieces, many balloons don’t reach such great heights and instead fall into the rivers or the sea, where they will take over a year to degrade.
Before the council adopted the ordinance late on Wednesday night, only Newton spoke during public comment with a simple “yay.” The council unanimously OK’d the ban.
Newton told Patch she only knows of a few East Coast states that also have a ban on releasing latex balloons.
 
 

Dan Johnson July 05, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Well stated and well documented. There is no longer any excuse for this fancy form of littering. They should have know better.
Elizabeth MacDonald July 06, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Here is some real information on balloons and their impact on wildlife...http://www.allenprograms.com/store.asp?pid=11143 There has been little documentation that balloons impact wildlife....but there is a lot of 'but it might'. Wind turbines kill birds...are you ready to ban wind turbines?

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