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'It's got to stop'

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:25 PM

“It has happened more than once,” said Pam Vander Zwaag, who lives near the Olive Township State Game Area. “We’re getting familiar with the sound of the guns.”

Vander Zwaag and other residents have reported that their properties have been struck by stray bullets fired from the 247-acre state game area. She noted that her home below the bathroom window, as well as her mother's old house, have also been hit by stray bullets.

“We have a fairly new pole barn that we put up in 2008, and it has a hole in it,” Vander Zwaag said.

The latest incident was Tuesday night when Ruth and Bernard Luurtsma’s home in the 11000 block of Port Sheldon Road was struck by a stray bullet.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies were sent to the game area Tuesday night and they found a Holland Township man in his late 20s sighting a gun there. It is believed that the gun — a Russian-made 7.62-size rifle — was responsible for putting a bullet in the wall of the Luurtsmas' family room, passing about 2 feet above Ruth’s head as she rested on the couch.

“It’s not a safe situation, that’s where I am coming from, and it’s got to stop,” Bernard Luurtsma said Thursday afternoon.

Luurtsma said he wants to see changes made at the state game area in order to prevent further incidents.

“To allow them to shoot without a big berm there or something is unsafe," he said. "It’s all about safety. I love guns and all that stuff, too, but you’ve got to do it in a safe manner.”

Olive Township officials say they are aware of the incident and are in the process of seeing what can be done about it. Township Supervisor Todd Wolters said while they don't want hunting eliminated from the state game area, he doesn’t think it is the place to fire long rifles.

“The problem is, how do you differentiate it and how do you contain it?” he posed.

Wolters said the township has been tracking similar incidents at the game area for the past year, and that changes are needed to ensure the safety of township residents.

"There is going to have to be some changes here,” he said. "We’re going to work through it with the residents and the state.”

Luurtsma said common sense should dictate that people shouldn't be firing guns in the game area woods.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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