Fireworks will still fly in Clarkston

Aerial fireworks light up the sky during the annual Clarkston Community Spirit Fireworks display on the Fourth of July. The Clarkston City Council is considering banning all aerial fireworks, other than those ignited during the community display. The public weighed in on the potential ban during the council's meeting Monday evening.

The long-awaited decision on proposed changes to Clarkston’s fireworks regulations took a twist Monday night.

The city council opted to limit private displays to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, but shot down a plan to ban aerial fireworks. The last-minute change was approved with a 4-3 vote against the wishes of Councilors Belinda Larsen, Russ Evans and Pat Holman.

After the amended version got the green light, the decision to reduce the number of days fireworks can be discharged was unanimous. The new rules will go into effect in 2020.

The city council has been discussing changes to the fireworks laws for months with input from the public. The majority of speakers at recent meetings were opposed to the ban.

Clarkston veteran Beau Tanner said the “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” are a traditional part of Independence Day celebrations, and the city’s proposal to ban aerial displays was “un-American.”

“Pardon our noise,” Tanner said. “It’s the sound of our freedom.”

Jill Eckberg of Clarkston read a letter in support of the stricter rules, saying bottle rockets have landed on her roof, her backyard has been burned and her driveway has been blocked by careless revelers.

After the council tweaked the ordinance, Eckberg tore up her letter and left the meeting.

Ben Harrington, who sells fireworks in Clarkston, said he’s been monitoring online discussions about the issue and the majority of people on social media were fine with restricting the dates but opposed to banning aerials.

Following the council’s decision, Harrington expressed his gratitude and offered to donate labor, trucks and dump fees to help the city clean up the mess on July 5.

Larsen said the ordinance was sparked by discussions at Public Safety Committee meetings and she wasn’t trying to take away any freedoms or ruin family fun. Residences inside the small-sized city are close together, and following Lewiston’s rules banning “what goes up and blows up” would keep people safer, she said.

Councilor Skate Pierce said his position has been clear from the beginning. Most of the property damage and injuries caused by fireworks are not related to aerial displays, and in his opinion, the proposed changes would not have increased public safety.

In addition, getting rid of the fireworks stands in Clarkston could drive people to shop at nearby places that sell items that are illegal in the state of Washington, Pierce said.

Andrews said she hopes the community and volunteers get involved in the clean-up efforts. Keeping the holiday “civil and clean” is better than a ban, she said.

“I’m pleased we came to a compromise tonight,” Andrews said.

Councilor John Murray said enforcement on the border between unincorporated areas of Asotin County and the city of Clarkston would’ve been almost impossible.

Asotin County allows fireworks in unincorporated areas July 3-5 with specific time limits. Most of the action in the Clarkston Heights is centered around athletic fields at Lincoln Middle School.

In other city business, Fire Chief Steve Cooper is retiring after a long career at Clarkston and Lewiston. A farewell party will be conducted in his honor at 4 p.m. next Tuesday at the Clarkston Fire Department.

Sandaine can be contacted via email at kerris@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264. You can follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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