Banff to investigate fireworks options

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Colourful fireworks in the night sky may create joy and excitement for people, but for wildlife and pets the explosive noise can cause stress and terror.

Banff town council has asked administration to investigate potential alternatives to noisy fireworks for Canada Day, Halloween and New Year’s Eve celebrations following concerns raised by some residents.

Conservationists say loud fireworks can cause a great amount of fear, stress, disorientation and anxiety in wild animals.

“The Town has done a very good job of being green – recycling, solar initiatives, transit – but being green is a more complex issue than that,” said Reg Bunyan, vice-president of Bow Valley Naturalists and a retired Parks Canada resource conservation officer.

“We’re continuing to be concerned with the impact on wildlife of the big bang with fireworks. I’m sure council has heard anecdotally about the impacts on pets, and the wildlife population is much more sensitive to that sort of thing.”

Noisy fireworks displays have been a big issue in the U.K. over the past couple of months, with calls for them to be halted in some places.

“This is a big issue in Europe and it is not uncommon in Europe to have silent fireworks,” said Bunyan.

“I think that would be more consistent here with being a green community.”

Connie Grace, the Town of Banff’s destination events coordinator, said the issue of fireworks comes up every year.

She said silent fireworks are not yet available in Canada, noting they are not regulated at this point.

Grace said she has explored laser shows as an alternative in the past as well.

“Unfortunately, we sit within three aerodromes and Transport Canada would not allow it because of the effect it would have on aircraft,” she said.

Presently, Banff budgets about $35,000 a year for fireworks – $12,000 for Canada Day, $9,000 for New Year’s Eve and $8,500 for Halloween. There is also a noiseless pyrotechnics show on Dec. 31 for kids with a price tag of $3,500.

Councillor Peter Poole, with the backing of Coun. Ted Christensen, tried to scrap fireworks costs from the operating budget. Council voted 5-2 to keep the funding in budget.

“We’ve heard from the public there appears to be some willful blindness to this and I don’t want to proceed willfully blind,” said Poole.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said she appreciates the discussion, but is looking for more information.

“We hear these concerns as well, I would say from a few, on an annual basis. And then, of course, we get ‘damn, those fireworks were great, they looked so beautiful,’ ” she said.

Poole also raised concerns about potential liability to the municipality, including from private prosecution.

Administration noted fireworks displays are authorized by Parks Canada, which signs off on a restricted activity permit for each event.

“Administration can commit to council to return with a report on alternatives to traditional fireworks in advance of the Canada Day 2018 show, with a long enough lead time to allow us to pursue alternatives should council direct us to do so,” said Town Manager Robert Earl.

“Within that report we can also provide advice relative to liability concerns.”

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