Erin Biggs: Are we trying to be Fireworks Town USA?
December 20, 2017
Tuesday morning, I got a Facebook notification saying that the Steamboat Resort added a new event near me. Great! I appreciate the events that the ski mountain hosts – every year there are balloon glows, the Cowboy Downhill, etc. I understand that tourism is a big part of our local economy, and I’m not trying to rain on that parade.
I do, however, have to say something about this new event. It is called Steamboat Friday nights. Every Friday night from this Friday, Dec. 22 until the end of March, there will be fireworks (and that doesn’t include the already scheduled fireworks taking place for the Olympian Send-off, Valentine’s Day, Winter Carnival and New Year’s Eve).
Before this summer, I found Steamboat’s seeming obsession with fireworks to be quaint and charming, if not a little odd. Then I got a dog. My dog is terrified of fireworks, and I’m sure he’s not alone.
In a June 2016 New York Times article Judy Shamoun-Baranes, a geoecologist at the University of Amsterdam, said ”Fireworks can cause birds to panic and flee en masse." The article goes on to say, "In 2011, 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell out of the sky in Beebe, Ark., after fireworks celebrations on New Year's Eve, possibly because the loud noises led them to fly into chimneys, houses and trees.”
“Loud fireworks also scare larger mammals like deer and coyotes out into roads, where they can get hit by cars,” said Lisa Horn, the executive director of West Sound Wildlife Shelter in Washington State.
For a place that calls itself “Dog Town, USA,” it’s really disconcerting how often we’re planning to blow things up that will terrify our four-legged (and also our winged) friends. I like fireworks – they’re pretty and exciting, but do we really need them every single weekend through the winter? Are we trying to call ourselves “Fireworks Town, USA” now?
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On top of noise pollution, there’s also environmental pollution caused by fireworks. According to Time magazine, “The level of particulate matter, or small pollutants like dust, dirt and soot present in the air, increased by 42 percent on average across the U.S. on the Fourth of July … Air conditions are at their worst between 9 and 10 p.m. on the day of the holiday …Researchers, who looked at data from 315 sites across the country, found that 10 of the sites met a threshold deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when sustained for a prolonged period of time.”
Are these effects worth it for some tourist “oohs” and “aahs?” I know the snow hasn't been great, but there must be another way to bring people in.
On top of the noise and air pollution, how much good could be done in our community for the amount these fireworks displays must be costing?
I know we need our tourists to come spend money in our town, but I ask the resort to rethink this plan for the good of our community.