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Hunting concerns souring park deal?



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November 05, 2013 | 03:20 PM
ELKHORN — If hunting is allowed year-round in a proposed park in the town of Lyons, at least one county board supervisor said she would no longer support acquiring the land.

“Frankly, if we have to have year-round hunting, I don’t want it,” County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said.

Russell said she wouldn’t feel comfortable using the park at the same time as hunters. She has proposed that the permissible hunting time frame mirror the one used at Big Foot Beach State Park.

At that park, which county officials have said is comparable to the proposed park in the town of Lyons, hunting is allowed between November 15 and December 15 and from April 1 to the Tuesday nearest May 3.

For more than a year, county officials have negotiated with Duane Clark to purchase 195 acres of land at the intersection of Sheridan Springs and Short roads.

The property, which has more than 9,000 feet of frontage on the White River and established trails, has a price tag of $1.91 million.

The county applied for, and received, a 50/50 matching grant from the DNR. To receive the grant, the county agreed to allow hunting, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing and fishing.

County officials always planned on allowing hunting and trapping on the property, and preceded with acquiring the grant under the presumption that hunting wouldn’t be year-round.

DNR officials have reviewed the county’s ordinance for the proposed park and have expressed concerns that it is too restrictive on hunting and trapping.

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Lavane Hessler, the DNR’s stewardship local government grant manager, said the only way restrictions can be placed on hunting or trapping is if there is a concern for public safety. County officials have suggested the restrictions on hunting because of public safety concerns.

On Monday afternoon, after the park committee meeting, Hessler said the DNR’s public safety committee will review the Walworth County ordinance to see if there is a public safety concern.

Hessler said she doesn’t have a time frame for that decision. The committee consists of DNR wardens who are familiar with the area, she said.

“One of the things the wardens will look at is seasons,” Hessler said. “Hunting in the summer doesn’t make sense there, it doesn’t seem like. What about fall and winter hunting?”

A deal breaker

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During Monday’s park commission meeting, board members said they would like the DNR to agree to the ordinance that placed prohibitions on hunting and trapping.

“It is really a shame that we have this beautiful piece of land that we are able to purchase,” Russell said. “When it comes down to it, we will be precluded from using it as a recreational park.”

People who live near the property also have expressed similar concerns about bullets that miss their targets.

“To me having hunting and recreational activity going on at the same place, at the same time is a recipe for disaster,” neighboring property owner James Downey said.

County Administrator David Bretl and Kevin Brunner, the county’s director of central services, shared their frustrations with the DNR with the county’s park committee on Monday afternoon.

Both said they haven’t received a clear answer on what would help the county and DNR reach an amicable agreement.

Bretl said the DNR won’t award the funds from the matching grant to buy the land unless an agreement is reached.

At Big Foot Beach State Park gun hunting is prohibited, but it would be allowed at the proposed park during certain times of the year, according to the county’s draft ordinance.

“Ours are far more permissive that Big Foot Beach State Park,” Russell said.

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