Hundreds of people took part in a paper lantern festival at Spanish Banks in Vancouver Friday night, but the beautiful images of lit globes floating through the sky took on a very different reality in the light of day.
Yvonne McColl was walking her dog with friends through Pacific Spirit Regional Park Saturday morning when she noticed what at first appeared to be a large amount of litter on the ground and in the trees.
On closer inspection, the group realized that hundreds of lanterns from the festival had blown from the beach to the park, near 4th Avenue and Blanca Street.
McColl and her friends spent more than an hour cleaning up the lanterns, but couldn’t reach dozens of them that were stuck high up in the trees.
GALLERY: Vancouver festival lanterns litter Pacific Spirit Regional Park
McColl said she is worried that the lanterns, made of paper, wood, plastic and metal, pose a risk to wildlife and the environment.
“I don’t know if the bits of paper are biodegradable, but there are sharp metal pieces as well,” she said. “We have lots of eagles, owls and other wildlife and if an animal gets stuck in a lantern, it might not be able to get out. It’s a heartbreaking thought.”
An event Facebook page, that has since been taken down, stated that participants were invited to purchase a “100 per cent biodegradable lantern” for $5, with all proceeds going to a Ukraine charity.
While certain companies do offer wire-free lanterns for sale, the ones that McColl saw contained wire.
“What happens when that falls into our oceans and forests? The metal wire is sharp. What about fish, otters and seals?” McColl said. “Vancouver prides itself on being a green city, but those metal pieces will stay in forest trees forever.”
The Vancouver Fire Department said while they were not aware of the festival, the lanterns don’t pose a fire hazard at this time of year because the forest is very wet during the winter months. However, there would be a risk in the summer.
Because the Facebook event was taken down, Global BC could not contact event organizers. It is not known whether organizers or participants had any plan to clean up after the festival.
Lantern festivals take place at this time of year all over the world to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Some participants use the lanterns to symbolize letting go of their past selves.
GALLERY: Vancouver lantern festival