A Balloon Ban in Chatham? Town Meeting Voters May Decide

CHATHAM – A proposed bylaw in Chatham that would ban balloons will head to town meeting in the spring, but selectmen say a rewrite by the town counsel is needed to allow them at private functions.

As currently written, the bylaw would prohibit the sale and use of any type of balloon inflated with gas lighter than air without distinguishing their use in public or at private birthday parties or weddings.

Resident Susannah Nickerson says the bylaw would make the town’s beaches and waterways cleaner and would be safer and healthier for wildlife.

“Simply, now that we know that helium balloons are a risk to wildlife we need to stop using them,” Nickerson said.

Resident Elaine Gibbs expressed concerns about the proposed bylaw after she was told by selectmen that transporting balloons purchased from other towns to her home would be illegal.

“I think this is maybe carrying it a little too far,” Gibbs said.

The bylaw was proposed by residents in town who are worried that balloons released at summer band concerts are ending up in local waters causing harm to the environment and wildlife.

Chatham Band President Sally Davol said that giving balloons to children at the Friday night summer concerts is not the problem and that the Masonic Lodge members who volunteer to sell balloons to raise money for local charities tie them tightly to children.

“Are latex balloons environmentally unfriendly? Yes, if not disposed of correctly,” she said. “But when they are handled properly they do biodegrade.”

Davol said the issue is education and pointed to the fact that plastic six pack holders were an issue years ago but were never banned and that people were told how to cut them up before throwing them out.

Chatham Town Meeting is Monday, May 14.

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