• Image of Rowers on River


    Park District of Columbia

Balloons, Hot Coals, and the Earth

One of the aquatic turtles that may mistake plastic garbage for its leafy food.

One of the aquatic animals that mistake plastic garbage for its leafy food.

Ian Lothian

People gather at parks to have a good time, share a meal, play, and relax. They have a right to expect the National Park Service to address hazards and enforce regulations to minimize damage to parks and neighboring areas. Some of these hazards may not be apparent to the average visitor.

In the 1980s marine animals stranded on beaches were found to be starving with stomachs full of plastics. Biologists found these whales, turtles, and other animals were eating balloons, bags, and other plastic debris, washed from land to the ocean, mistaking the plastics for food. Helium filled balloons have been found hundreds of miles from their release sites, sometimes drifting over water or near water on the wind. The National Park Service responded to this threat to marine life with legislation prohibiting helium filled balloons in parks to prevent injury and death to marine animals. Please leave balloons at home, inside, where they can not escape to become deadly.

Grass and wood (trees) are fuel for fires. Hot coals kill grass and trees when dumped on the grass and the base of trees. Take responsibility for proper disposal of coals in a park grill or in a closed, fire proof container when you leave. Leave the trees and grass alive. Likewise, keep hot coals away from structures and play areas where a breeze could blow a cinder to dry grass and start a wildfire where people are gathered.

If you enjoy sea food from the Chesapeake Bay, you may want to pay close attention to protecting that grass and those trees from damage by soil compaction from heavy foot traffic or other threats. These park areas are filters for a host of chemicals that come from the roads and neighborhoods and flow right into the Anacostia River and on to the Chesapeake Bay. Each blade of grass, each tree, no matter how small, is a part of a green defense that encourages clean water in the Chesapeake Bay, and sea food for years to come.


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