BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Visitors to downtown Traverse City festivals will still be able to chug from disposable plastic water bottles that some residents complain too often end up in bushes and on beaches.
A majority of Traverse City commissioners oppose Mayor Michael Estes' suggestion to ban or limit disposable water bottle sales at festivals and special events. Estes proposed replacing disposable bottles with refillable bottles; the city would provide free filling stations, he said.
Several residents and one event promoter spoke about litter problems and environmental benefits of limiting plastic water bottle use.
Sam Porter, a local event promoter, said he's staged festivals attended by more than 5,000 people without selling disposable water bottles. He encouraged the city to explore the idea.
"It can be done, but it's not easy," Porter said.
But most commissioners said a ban would go too far and wouldn't change littering behavior.
"It's just sort of a slippery slope. You start banning the sale of water, what's next," Commissioner Jody Bergman said.
The city already regulates and bans many behaviors at its parks, from smoking to feeding ducks, Estes countered.
Commissioners Mary Ann Moore and Jim Carruthers supported further investigation into the issue. Moore said plastic water bottles make up the majority of all refuse at city events.
Commissioners Michael Gillman, Barbara Budros, and Jeanine Easterday opposed pursuing the water bottle ban.
"Bringing awareness by banning the sale of bottled water won't mean people will change the way they behave," Easterday said.
Estes said he'll drop the issue, thanks to a lack of consensus among commissioners.