Balloon release ban on agenda for Dare Commissioners

By on June 1, 2024

Debbie Swick at the May Dare Commissioners meeting.

The move to ban balloon releases in Dare County, which has been spreading throughout its municipalities, is now moving to the Dare County Board of Commissioners. The first Dare County municipality to enact a balloon ban was the Town of Duck, which did so on April 3.

At its June 3 meeting, the commissioners are expected to review a draft text amendment banning balloon releases and to schedule a July 15 public hearing on the proposed ban, which would apply to the unincorporated locations in Dare County.

The primary argument made by those advocating for balloon bans is their impact on the environment and wildlife. On its website, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted that ‚ÄúBirds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them.‚ÄĚ It also says that the strings used to hold balloons together also be a threat, noting that ‚Äúmany animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet and hands.‚ÄĚ

Locally, the leading advocate and mover behind the bans is Debbie Swick of Southern Shores. Swick, who is active in a number of Outer Banks organizations, including N.E.S.T and the OBX Marine Mammal Stranding Network, recently received the prestigious North Carolina Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service.

At the May meeting of the Dare Board of Commissioners, Swick spoke during public comment and asked the county to come up with a balloon release ban for the unincorporated communities. The draft text amendment, which would become part of the county‚Äôs littering regulation, states that it would apply to balloons ‚Äúinflated or filled with gas or fluid, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen, air, or water.‚ÄĚ

In terms of enforcement, the draft amendment says that violators of the balloon release ban would be ‚Äúsubject to a civil penalty in the amount of $250.00 to be recovered by Dare County in a civil action in the nature of debt if the offender does not pay the penalty within ten days after having been cited for violation of the ordinance.‚ÄĚ



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  • Harry Pitts

    At least their priorities are in order… Dang balloons…

    Saturday, Jun 1 @ 2:31 pm
  • Turtle

    Who supports balloon release? Evil Balloon Corporations? What decade are we living in?

    Not only should there be a ban but those releasing should be arrested and fined for intentional littering.

    Same as any smoker who throws their cigarette on the ground or beach. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

    Saturday, Jun 1 @ 3:08 pm
  • Iron Head

    Wish there was a way to catch and fine the drunks who bury their beer cans on the beach and toss the bottle caps down. I metal detect when I’m down, that’s all I find… dozens of bottle caps and hoards of beer cans every day.

    Saturday, Jun 1 @ 6:46 pm
  • Travis

    I like critters just as much as the next tree-hugger (I consider myself in that camp) but sometimes you have to play these things out in your head and contemplate the reality.

    A 6 year old birthday party with balloons tied to the mailbox and tables. The deputies roll up and bust up the party because of the balloons?

    A wedding, balloons everywhere as is often the case. Just as the bride and groom are having their first dance – woooop woop – here comes the Party Police to start citing them for balloon violations?

    Nobody wants to be put in that position and so you will have a law that will not be enforced. Yes, cigarettes on the beach are nasty, but when is the last time you ever saw anyone get busted for that? It’s so widespread that it is unenforceable. Balloons are less common than cigarettes, but I don’t think many cops are going to want to ruin Little Suzie’s birthday party over her felony balloons.

    Saturday, Jun 1 @ 9:56 pm
  • Currituck Should Follow

    I applaud the balloon ban and hope it is drafted and adopted by the commissioners.

    Walking our beaches, I’ve collected marketing balloons from NY and Delaware, and sent those balloons (with strings), and a respectful letter to the CEOs of both companies. I received respectful responses, with surprising commitments to stop using balloons as a marketing tool.

    It’s so easy and logical, like plastic bags. Does anyone remember this?:

    “In 2009, former Democratic state Sen. Marc Basnight of Dare County introduced legislation that called for a ban on single-use plastic bags in retail stores located in Outer Banks communities. The legislation passed and a ban was set in place from 2009 until 2017, when it was repealed by a Republican-led legislature.”

    Repealed! Shaking my head…

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 4:51 am
  • surf123

    Turtles, birds and other animals will be safe, but no housing solutions on the horizon. Well done. This will not be enforceable, but at least the busy body pushing it will feel like they accomplished something that benefits no human.

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 9:29 am
  • Mike Taylor

    What about all the poor ospreys who use these balloons as nesting material. I mean it hardly seems fair to them?

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 12:30 pm
  • Jason Salter

    Why don’t we ban helium? That’s a lot easier in my opinion

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 12:32 pm
  • Bob

    So with the Balloon release ban, will they still sell helium filled Balloons? Because there will be accidental release from people that may let them slip away by accident!

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 4:28 pm
  • Ivan


    As usual, you are implying something that was neither in the article nor the comments. This law is about releasing balloons, not possessing them. If little Susie were to accidentally release a balloon I doubt you would hear any sirens roaring. However, if she does it intentionally, I say her little butt should be thrown into the Manteo Hilton with all the other criminals.

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 5:46 pm
  • Travis


    While I don’t think I usually imply anything that isn’t in the article as a practice, I am guilty as charged here. I yield.

    In my defense, I’ll just say “balloon ban” and “balloon release ban” are used interchangeably by proponents and that is what tripped me up. Also, there are some pretty significant restrictions on balloons (not released) on Ms. Swick’s website in her proposed legislation.

    I will, however, not be joining your call to lock up children. For anything. Cheers.

    Sunday, Jun 2 @ 7:54 pm
  • PoliceState

    What is the budget for the Balloon Police? I may apply for the job! Will I need a Helicopter? I can snatch the balloons out of the air! Will I need a boat with nets? I can fish out those balloons that I missed in the air!
    Who is policing the NO FIREWORKS law that is already on the books? They are doing a horrible job. I’ve seen fireworks already this season. Perhaps I could apply for that job!
    We need to outlaw alcohol. It kills thousands of people every year, though not technically animals, humans are valuable. (sometimes) Alcohol has contributed to many injuries on the waterways that will directly result in injury to wildlife. This may encourage you to support my proposal.
    I love this feel good laws!

    Monday, Jun 3 @ 9:36 am
  • BanLiving

    @CurrituckShouldFollow, you are hilarious. Let’s ban everything. What happened to choice? Don’t want to use a plastic bag? Don’t.
    How much plastic do you use? Do you place your fruits and vegetables in plastic bags at the store? How about your bread? Is your bread in a plastic bag? Do you use paper towels? Toilet paper? They are wrapped in plastic bags.
    It is choice.

    Monday, Jun 3 @ 10:27 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Wow, looks like the balloon release ban is on the frontline of freedom.

    Monday, Jun 3 @ 12:13 pm
  • Just Another Mike

    Once the commissioners sign this very important ordinance and the police can begin fining and, I hope jailing, those who violate it (especially the children), they should turn their attention to to an epidemic sweeping this country. Cat juggling. I demand that the commissioners charter a multi-jurisdictional blue ribbon commission to study the problem and recommend broad and sweeping ordnances that will finally put an end to this heinous act once and for all and tell visitors to Dare county that you can come and enjoy our beaches, but if you come here to juggle cats, go elsewhere. Those visitors are not welcome. Who says government doesn’t work. This is money well spent.

    Monday, Jun 3 @ 2:50 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    And with that insightful comment, the debate over balloon release bans ends on the Voice comment pages. Hard to top cat juggling.

    Monday, Jun 3 @ 6:34 pm
  • Cate Kager

    I volunteer at the Caring Place in Erie, PA. We work with grieving children and their adults. We now use rice paper, to write the name or wish on. Drop that in a bottle of bubbles. Then blow bubbles that contain the rice paper, which has dissolved. The bubbles raise up without the worry of strings or plastic returning to earth. Still celebrating or remembering our missed person.

    Tuesday, Jun 4 @ 5:20 pm
  • Currituck Should Follow

    @BanLiving Tell the choking sea turtle that it made the wrong choice.
    Everything is not “all or none”. This is a step in the right direction, and the comments here support that.

    Tuesday, Jun 11 @ 8:27 am
  • dennis

    A noble gesture, but unrealistic.

    The reality of this effort is this:

    Through the many years of being on the beaches of the Outer Banks I have witnessed hundreds of balloons on those beaches, but I have never witnessed a balloon release which leads me to believe that those balloons originate primarily from areas other than the Outer Banks.

    For Dare County or the towns in Dare County to enact ordinances and fines for balloon releases may sound good on paper and make the commissioners feel good about their involvement in reality it is a waste of time.

    Who is going to enforce the ordinance? Again in reality we all know that the vast majority of balloons we see on the beach are not released here. As for enforcement, well heck even in good ole KDH the no dogs on the beach at certain times ordinance which is posted at beach accesses is pretty much ignored and not enforced so why would the balloon release ban be any different.

    I completely understand the life threatening danger to sea turtles and other marine life the balloons cause and it is my firm belief that education (and lots of it) of those dangers is the only answer to help resolve this issue

    County and town commissioners making ordinances and fines for balloon release does not and never will solve this issue.

    Friday, Jun 14 @ 1:24 pm
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