Cottage community’s battle to ban sky lanterns

Published: April 8, 2020

A group releasing sky lanterns by the lake By Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Can a solo cottager make a difference? Sure—especially if she’s got her lake association to back her up. That’s what Lake St. Peter, Ont., cottage owner Bonny McCleery Scanlan found after she decided to rid her municipality of sky lanterns. Other towns have banned the flame-fuelled, free-floating balloons because of their potential to cause fires and harm wildlife and livestock.

Ontario introduces province-wide fire ban

The fire-hazard aspect is scary, says Bonny, but “the litter also really ticks me off.” In July 2015, she pulled three lanterns out of the water and one out of the woods at her cottage. That August, she raised the sky-lantern issue with the Lake St. Peter Property Owners’ Association. “When I explained what they were, people were aghast.” By the next summer, she was ready to launch her awareness campaign: she gave resorts and retailers posters to display and had meetings with town councillors, the mayor, and the fire chief. Bonny might have done most of the legwork herself, but knowing that other cottagers supported her campaign had a bolstering effect. “It meant that I wasn’t just one crazy lady, out there on my own.”

In May 2017, the Hastings Highlands town council amended the municipality’s burning bylaws to ban the sale and use of sky lanterns. Bonny’s next challenge: getting the lanterns banned across the province. “I’m not finished with this yet,” she says. Gauntlet thrown.

Want general spring and summer fire safety tips, whether indoors or outdoors? Visit the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs website.

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