Give us back our park

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To the editor:

It was with considerable disappointment that I read in the Aug 10th edition of the Lawrence Ledger about the expansion of bow-hunting season in Mercer Meadows Park. The start of hunting season this year has been moved up two full months, from early November to early September. It now will run from early September through mid March, six days a week. So now, for more than half the year, the public will have full use of the park only one day per week.

Since its inception I have been impressed with Mercer Meadows and its considerable contribution to the quality of life for the residents of this area. The park contains an extensive, very well planned, constructed and maintained network of hiking and biking trails in a beautiful setting of forests and meadows that rivals, and in my opinion surpasses, anything else in the area. In a sense, it’s a shame that this letter is a criticism, rather that a compliment to those responsible for the creation and continued support of this beautiful park.

The park is a beautiful place year round, but in my opinion, the nicest season, and the time that it’s trails get the most use, is in the autumn. Summer is beautiful, but it’s usually too hot during the day for most people. Activity is usually restricted to the morning and evening hours. But during the fall the temperature is nice all day long. So Autumn is the high season. September and October (and most of November) is prime time.

But now the plan is to give the park to the hunters during September and October. This seems to be a case of “the tail wagging the dog”. This park was designed to provide the residents of Mercer County (who provided the funding for it) a place to safely hike, bike, and have easy access to a peaceful, natural setting throughout the year. It was not designed to be a hunting refuge.

During hunting season I, for one, am not comfortable using the trails on weekdays. On my Sunday bike rides I have seen the tree stands just 50 yards off the trail, and also seen bloody trails left by wounded deer trying to escape their fate. This does not inspire confidence. I’m sure that many parents feel the same way about letting their children use the trails. Now they will have to choose between cars on the road and hunters in the woods throughout the fall.

I am fully aware of the problems posed by an expanding deer population in the area. But deer population management is a complex issue that extends well beyond the confines of the park. More hunting just within the park will not resolve this community wide issue.

In the park itself, priority should be given to this park’s stated purpose when addressing the deer management problem. The park should not be used as a surrogate solution for a far larger problem.

Give us back our autumn in the park.

Steven Vannier

Lawrence