Two dozen locals called for bans, restrictions, or new solutions when it comes to the issue of loud propane cannons on Langley berry farms.
The Thursday night forum was held by the Township's task force on the cannons, which is expected to report back to the council by the end of March.
In rural areas, berry farmers, primarily blueberry farmers, can fire the cannons every few minutes during summer months, during the hours of daylight, with a break around noon. The loud booms are intended to scare away birds that could eat the crops.
Neighbours have complained for years that the repeated loud noises are disruptive, but municipal goverments can't simply ban them, and have difficulty regulating them, because of right to farm legislation at the provincial level.
A number of Thursday's speakers pointed out that the noise from the cannons is damaging the rights of other farmers.
"The device could easily startle a horse and rider as they ride past the field," said Kevin Mitchell.
The loud bangs are "equally as effective at scaring horses as it is birds," said Alicia Harper, a vice president of the Horse Council of B.C. As a prey species, horses have an instinct to run away.
Horse breeder and trainer John Reidl has run a farm for 30 years, but said he's had real problems since cannons started in his neighbourhood two years ago.
"I'm here to tell you they're depriving me of my right to farm," he said.
Other residents had more personal reasons for their issues.
Former Canadian Forces soldier and peacekeeping veteran Rob Jandric said the loud booms have turned his neighbourhood into "a combat zone."
"My wife has found me sleepwalking, waking up in my field, in a fetal position. I've hit the deck a number of times. It's affected my health," he said. "I have PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]."
He said he's talked to other veterans who are bothered by the cannons, including Second World War and Korean War veterans.
"We wouldn't be here if this wasn't important," said Jandric.
Neighbours didn't just call for bans or restrictions. Many came with suggested alternatives.
Terry Sheldon and Sue Leyland both suggested falcons under the control of falconers, a solution Leyland said is in use in some parts of Oregon and the Washington State.
"Propane cannons are not the only way or the best way to protect blueberry crops," Leyland said.
Farmer Robin Price noted that some farms don't use the cannons and still seem to make a profit, and said that recorded sounds of starlings in distress are apparently more effective, and less intrusive for residents.
Many people who live near the farms said that the birds quickly become used to the loud bangs and other noisemakers, and if they leave the fields at all, they come back very quickly.
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