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Discovering Block Island: The Island Bans Balloons

by kelly / April, 25 2018 01:30

Photo of little girl holding balloons at sunset

Block Island’s town council unanimously voted to ban the sale and use of balloons. Yup, you read that right; on April 2, 2018 the vote went down. While a ban might seem odd at first, it’s actually a measure to protect the island’s wildlife and coastal ecosystem.

Specifically the goal of the new ordinance is:

“To protect the wildlife and coastal ecosystems of Block Island, the enjoyment of nature, and the health, safety, and welfare of Block Island’s residents, and visitors.”

Why the Ban

Ok, ok, I know it sounds like an Ebenezer Scrooge move, but it has it’s merits. The ban on balloons came about after discarded balloons – none of which are biodegradable – became a trash issue negatively affecting the island’s ecosystem.

According to Councilman Ken Lacoste:

“People that have events out here on the island and tie a whole bunch of balloons to a rock or to a tree to signify where the event is. The way the wind is out here those ultimately more than not get blown away and end up in the water.“

Then marine animals have the potential to mistake the balloons for food or get tied up in the strings. Plus, balloons that end up washing ashore turn into trash on the beach.

According to Dave Prescott, the South County Coastkeeper on Rhode Island:

“They're [balloons] used once and most people forget about them. They can have a really huge impact on our shoreline and the marine life.“

To get an idea of the scale of the issue, in 2017 Save The Bay collected more than 800 balloons along the Rhode Island shoreline. That’s a lot of balloons!

I must admit, I never thought about the consequences of buying balloons. But the more I investigated the issue, the more I realized they can really wreak havoc on ocean life and the shoreline.

Dave Prescott actually hopes it becomes a statewide balloon ban. I’m not sure how likely that is to happen given all the birthday parties, weddings, and other occasions where balloons are used but I can certainly understand his reasoning behind it.

Resident Support

Island residents seem to overwhelming support the ban. According to Margie Comings, chair of the Block Island Planning Board (the board spearheaded the initiative), she received “astounding” support for the ban.

It just goes to show Block Islanders are passionate about protecting their environment and maintaining the island’s natural beauty. That’s just one reason The Nature Conservancy called Block Island: “One of the Last 12 Great Places in the Western Hemisphere”.

Bring a Balloon, Pay Up

So what happens if you show up with a balloon on Block Island? Well, the balloon ban became effective on April 9th and is being enforced by the police. Violate the ordinance and face up to a $200 fine!

Discover Block Island

Trust us, you don’t need a balloon to celebrate or have an amazing time on the island. There is a ton to do and we have you covered. Just check out all that Block Island has to offer in our Discovering Block Island series.

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