Kennebunk High School senior Will Jones has been a tireless advocate against pollution that harms marine life since he was six years old. His efforts to educate the community have led to a proposed ordinance prohibiting the release and outdoor display of balloons that will go before voters in June.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to put the ordinance on the town ballot in June.
“It’s been great working with you on this,” Selectman Shiloh Schulte said to Jones. “I appreciate your passion.”
Jones has been working with the board and the ordinance committee for the past two years to refine the ordinance, which would prohibit the outdoor release and the outdoor display of all types of balloons, but would not prevent the sale of balloons in town, or use inside private buildings. It would prohibit the use of balloons inside any public building owned or leased by the town of Kennebunk, even if they are not released.
“Joy for a child does not come from a balloon. Children are smart and can understand this concept,” Jones said at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “Teaching a child that releasing a balloon has consequences to an animal is a great lesson in personal responsibility, and they understand this very well.”
Jones read letters from local school children who learned about the dangers of balloons to whales and other marine life, and pledged to help protect them by not using balloons.
He thanked the Board of Selectmen and the ordinance committee for working with him, and urged the community to support the ordinance. As a token of his appreciation he gave the board a professional bubble machine to be used by the town at events, instead of balloons.
Several community members showed early support for the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting, including Mimi Hoff and her daughter Arianna.
Hoff said Montana was a place with a huge conservation effort, and they encouraged their children to learn about the environment. When they moved to Maine she said her children learned another chapter in what it means to take care of the planet, now living near the ocean.
“We consistently pick up balloons on the beach, and it makes me really sad that it’s not considered littering. Thank you, Will for all you have done, and I think together we can raise our children to have a different level of consciousness and learn about all the wonderful alternatives there are to celebrate,” Hoff said.
The proposed ordinance entitled “Ordinance prohibiting the release and display of balloons” reads: “No person will knowingly or intentionally release balloons or cause balloons to be released at any outdoor celebration, promotional activity, sporting or other event, or in any public building. No person shall cause or allow a fixed exterior display of balloons.”
The proposed ordinance would be enforced by the Kennebunk Police Department or the Code Enforcement Officer, it reads. “Any violation of this ordinance shall be considered a civil violation and subject to penalties as established in the Town’s Fee and Fine Schedule for each release.”
To read the entire proposed ordinance go to the Document Center on the town website at www.kennebunkmaine.us.
The proposal will go before voters for approval on the June 11 town ballot.