British Columbia

Clowns, balloon artists twisted up over proposed balloon ban in Vancouver parks

Protesters aimed to deflate what they said were misconceptions about balloons ahead of a park board meeting Monday night, which will consider a ban on balloons in Vancouver parks and community centres.

Vancouver Park Board is considering a motion tonight to ban 'harmful' ballons from parks, community centres

Sam Doupe-Smith believes the Park Board doesn't have all the facts about balloons. (Tristan Le Rudulier)

A colourful group of clowns and other balloon-loving protesters argued against a heavy hand for their light decorations Monday morning.

Approximately 10 people rallied at John Hendry Park in advance of a Vancouver Park Board meeting tonight considering a ban on balloons, to say that was a bad idea — and to show off their skills with them.

"[Balloon-related garbage] isn't that big of an impact. It's only one per cent of the garbage in our parks and oceans," said balloon artist Lauren Preston, wearing a fascinator-style hat made from a balloon and carrying a twisted balloon rose.

"I think Vancouver Parks need to educate people better on proper disposal of balloons rather than banning balloons."

Lauren Preston was at John Hendry Park Monday with a collection of her balloon animal creations. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Green Party Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon put forward the idea of a ban on balloons in parks and community centres last week, saying it would be a good way to protect wildlife from eating plastic garbage created by errant or improperly discarded balloons.

Are some balloons less harmful?

Preston says if there are problems with balloons, they usually come from foil balloons and mass releases of helium balloons, not the long balloons she and her fellow artists use.

Another artist, Sam Doupe-Smith, said more education on the proper use of balloons and not littering was the solution to wayward balloons in parks.

Wearing a balloon necktie and holding a balloon model of the Disney character Pluto and a giant balloon rose in his hands, he claimed latex balloons can "biodegrade as fast as an oak leaf."

"And unfortunately, the Vancouver Park Board is pairing them with a plastic balloon, otherwise known as a foil balloon," he said with his tie squeaking. "We're hoping to educate them about the true facts about balloons."

Ban on helium only?

Clown Jim Milburn, his face painted and his his ventriloquist doll, Mango the Monkey, on his shoulder, uses balloons in his act and says they are a "long-standing part of our culture."

"They bring colour to our celebrations," he said. "To have an outright ban on our business we don't think is right. It has a direct impact on our business as well as the big smiles on kids who receive them."

Clown Jim Milburn and his doll, Mango the Monkey, expressed their views on balloons, which were closely aligned. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

He says White Rock has a ban on helium balloons which makes them less likely to turn into litter and called that a more reasonable approach.

Mackinnon didn't respond to an interview request Monday, but speaking to CBC last week, said he was not in favour of such a limited ban.

"My concern here is even the plastic, rubber balloons have consequences. People don't throw them away," he said. "They end up deflating, attached to poles, and they get into our parks and blown into our waterways."

Mackinnon also disagreed with the assertion that balloons biodegrade.

Mackinnon's motion is on the agenda when the Vancouver Park Board meets at 7 p.m. PT Monday.

With files from Matt Meuse and Tristan Le Rudulier

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