JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It is now illegal to release balloons in Jacksonville after the city council approved a city-wide ban on releasing balloons and sky lanterns.
Fifteen council members voted yes to the new ordinance and one voted against it.
The problem is that balloons and their strings turn into litter, and many times fall into waterways, which can be harmful or even fatal for marine life.
“The balloon and the string, both of those elements are extremely dangerous to wildlife," said Nicole Crosby, a member of the St. Johns Soil and Water Conservation District.
Crosby has been advocating for a balloon release ban in Jacksonville for years. She was behind the push for a similar ban in St Johns County, adopted in January.
"I approached councilman Diamond about a balloon release ban in Jacksonville because that would sort of close the gap of a line of municipalities and counties with balloon release bans," Crosby said.
There are currently similar bans in other cities and counties on the First Coast like Atlantic, Neptune, and Fernandina Beach. Also, St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach, the Town of Marineland, St. Johns County and Flagler Beach.
City Councilmember Rory Diamond says that any balloon release in Jacksonville will face the same penalty as littering, $50 for the first offense.
“Enforcement is hard, this is mostly about education, letting people know that as much fun it is to let a bunch of balloons up in the air they’re eventually going to fall down, and they could hurt our wildlife make everything dirty, it’s littering, and we don’t like it," said Rory Diamond, Jacksonville City Councilmember for District 13.
Balloon are typically released at celebrations or memorials, but Diamond and Crosby say there are other ways to honor loved ones.
“For example if everybody participating in a memorial were to write a few words about their decease loved one on a ribbon, and then all those ribbons are put on a kite, you could fly the kite, at the beach," Crosby said. "There are other ways to honor and remember people that might even be more meaningful than releasing a floating piece of plastic into the environment.”
The ban will take effect immediately.