Hunting concerns mount

Several Spring Lake Township and Ferrysburg officials are miffed that they were not invited into the conversation about an upcoming deer hunt at North Ottawa Dunes.
Marie Havenga
Sep 15, 2012

Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Director John Scholtz said managed recreational hunts are scheduled in the 500-acre dune area for Nov. 17-18 during firearms season, and Dec. 8-9 during muzzleloader season.

And although the county parks staff held a public meeting in late August, some municipal leaders felt snubbed that they weren't asked for input.

Spring Lake Township Trustee Ron Lindquist said even though Ottawa County owns North Ottawa Dunes, the land is within Spring Lake Township and the Township Board should have a say in it.

“Right now, I'm not a very happy camper with Ottawa County Parks and Recreation,” Lindquist said. “They didn't inform the board. I don't think that was very polite of John Scholtz. He seems to have an agenda, and he's pushing it through and to hell with anybody else.”

Ferrysburg City Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg said council also should have been approached for input. Ferrysburg's Coast Guard Park is a parking and entry area for the 500-acre North Ottawa Dunes.

Sjoberg said she attended a collaborative meeting about potential hunts in March, but there has been nothing since then.

“What happened to the collaboration?" she posed. "They seem to have an agenda and they're not really listening to the community. I'm really most offended they didn't even come talk to us — come and talk about their science, what they were planning, how they were going to control the safety.”

Sjoberg and several other municipal leaders — including Lindquist and fellow township trustees Bob Shay and Judith Miljan — said they are concerned about the hunt's proximity to houses.

“I'm not necessarily anti-hunting,” Sjoberg said. “I know there's a place for hunting. I'm just not sure it's in a place surrounded by residential neighborhoods. I'm a process person and I feel the process has been violated.”

Lindquist said he has a lot of unanswered questions — including potential danger to residents and pets, possible increases in car-deer accidents, and coyote and wolf populations.

“I have not made up my mind whether or not I support culling, but I think as a courtesy they should have come to us,” he said. “I have not seen anything that would indicate any serious thought has been given to what the results of culling would be.”

Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash said he sought information earlier this spring from county representatives, wildlife experts and members of the Tri-Cities Safety Coalition, a group concerned about potential negative effects of a hunt. Nash said he set up meetings to hear all sides of the issue in an attempt to sort fact from opinion.

“The idea wasn't a formal township meeting or anything — it was an informational gathering," he said. "People kept coming to me and saying 'This is true, that's true.' One person says one thing and one person says another. I wanted to sort it all out.”

Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said Nash was within his rights to personally gather information without involving other board members, even though Nash's actions were scrutinized by the Tri-Cities Safety Coalition.

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Board hosted a public meeting in late August to discuss the organized hunt.

Lindquist insists the board should have been given the opportunity for input prior to the plans being finalized. Miljan also said the board and residents should have been given the opportunity for input.

“Residents should be furious and outraged whether or not they agree to controlled hunting,” Miljan said. “The collaborators and county have given them no voice.”

Miljan, who lives in North Holiday Hills adjacent to North Ottawa Dunes, said she is so concerned about safety that she will make sure she is not home during hunting weekends.

Scholtz said the park would be closed during hunting times and staff would stand guard in parking areas.

The township trustees raised concerns about residents who enter the dunes through their backyards, not thinking about the hunting schedule.

Shay, who also lives in North Holiday Hills, suggested the county also have a physical presence in neighboring subdivisions.

Despite his safety concerns, Shay said he is in favor of thinning the deer herd. He said he often sees deer wandering down his street and in his yard.

“I just don't know if this is the best way to go about it,” he said. “I don't know if it would be better to have professionals (sharpshooters) only, or limit it to bow and arrow or crossbow.”

Scholtz said when the county applied for a $3.9 million Trust Fund grant to establish the dunes area in 2004, managed deer hunts were listed on the application as a future park activity. (See the document, click the Related File at the bottom of this story.)

“It's not something that's a brand new idea,” Scholtz said. “It's four days, two weekends. It's a 500-acre property and we're mirroring what the state does with their hunts. We didn't really see where we needed to seek permission from Spring Lake Township, given all those factors. But I would be happy to talk to the board.”

Scholtz noted that the county allows hunting in more than half of its parks. He said Kirk Park in Grand Haven Township has little or no deer damage, but North Ottawa Dunes is showing ill effects.

“The reason we're opening it up for some limited deer hunting is we are concerned about the overpopulation of deer,” Scholtz explained. “There are impacts to the vegetation, and that's not really a debatable thing in our mind. There's a lot of misinformation that's being thrown around out there.”

Scholtz said the nearby residents would be notified by mail prior to the hunt dates. A "small number of hunters" (25-30 over the two weekends) will be authorized, he said, and they will be shown the boundaries and a 450-foot setback.

The Tri-Cities Safety Coalition called the county's deer management policy “misguided, biased and deeply flawed.” The group questions how county officials could deem a hunt necessary or know what it would achieve without first conducting an independent ecosystem impact study and a deer population survey.

Although Scholtz said he doesn't have deer population numbers, he said the impact on the park's vegetation is clear.

“Little tree seedlings just aren't there anymore,” he said. “The next generation of trees isn't going to be there at some point in time. It has effects through the whole ecosystem.”

Scholtz said residents of North Shore Estates petitioned the county several years ago to request a herd thinning.

Adjacent P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores has hosted hunts for the past five or six years, Scholtz added.

“They're seeing positive impacts,” he said.

Comments

Bookemdano

I've been bow hunting for 10 years and the pattern I see, (just my opinion) is that as soon as the hunters start stirring up the woods and rummaging around, the deer will take off from this protected area if not killed before. They will take off to some other protected area (I swear they know where they are) or they will be pushed into other hunters on private or public land. The deer are smart and catch on quick and won't stick around

Evolved

The sole reason why this is happening is thanks to the good old boys club, the hunting lobby. Has no one noticed the 3.9 million dollar Trust Fund Grant. By whom??? And the grant was given because they agreedto turn the Dunes into a hunting preserve. Find out who gave this money. I'll bet anything it is a hunting group like the MDNR. This comes down to dirty politics and yet another place bought by the hunters to carry out their sick entertainment. Things are so out of control that soon I wouldn't be suprised if it will be legal to hunt on school playgrounds, shopping malls. The hunters are all in bed together including some municipal representatives. This has absolutely nothing to do with controlling deer populations. Btw, anyone been reading about all the diseased deer being found in MI? Uh, oh, looks like the hunters are going to lose one of their handy excuses to look like charitable humanitarians will be gone. Of course the meat is not inspected and who gives a damn if the poor or indigent get sick or die....as long as they look good.
Oh, and Wingmaster, I am so grateful that you don't "deeply respect" me. Whew. Do you hear yourself? You don't love and respect anything with a gun. Duh. Better come up with some new bs.

ghresident

Evolved, welcome to the discussion. Yet another PETA loving ANTI troll who has nothing to bring to the table. If you were so interested in this from the begining you would have been a member for more than for 1 hour 3 min's................move along now.

Wingmaster

Dear Evolve, respect is earned. You are bringing nothing to the conversation but baseless claims. You are taking the "respect" part of my post out of context and turning it into disrespect towards you. I clearly state respect is for the deer. Continue to post twisting my words and you will earn my disrespect! Bring rational thoughts and facts and you will earn my respect! Your choice.

kenpaxton

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained misplaced comment. Discussion Guidelines

ghresident

MR Paxton, You hadn't been able to get any articles up last week? Nice try since you've only been a Member for 1 hour 1 min and your post contains a spam link........Can we say where's a moderator?

Emjayc79

Hi -

My husband and I have had the property on all 4 sides of our home purchased by Ottawa Coutny Parks and Rec... Their lack of communication is a joke! We have had numerous issues - as we also share a driveway - with people who lack respect for public property, let alone private property! Recently, I had to contact the Sheriff's department and the DNR for three weeks in a row about people hunting on the property. It took them that long to send us an e-mail stating that they had to honor the brochures that were sent out stating that hunting was open in thie space!!!! WOW - we live in the middle of this property and our home wasn't even flagged at this point! Supposedly they are not "promoting" hunting - however- they sent of brochures and placed a sign in front of our home that states (HUNTERS PARKING .3 MILES with an arrow).... How is this NOT propmoting hunting? They are now spending roughly $54,000 to "realign" the driveway 30 feet up from where it is.... How is it that we are laying off Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and Teachers - but spending millions on buying up park land?
You want to talk about being put in a crap position - you can talk to us!

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