Some of our area’s best housing lots blend seamlessly into our area’s fabulous parks.
Homeowners adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park or one of Summit County’s Metro Parks often hike directly into the park from their own property. What a perk.
But Akron attorney Robert Glass believes that, in some cases, proximity to a park could be fatal.
Glass is a runner who often laces up in the evening. Not long ago, he dressed for the cold and arrived at Sand Run Metro Park about 8 p.m., eager for a workout. Much to his surprise, the park was closed.
Rangers had declared it off limits because the time had arrived for “deer management,” also known as “killing deer with guns to keep the population down.”
The wisdom of culling deer in public parks has been debated for years. This column isn’t about that. This is about the fact that Glass had no idea people would be firing live ammunition that particular night, because the Metro Parks never provide any advance warning.
He arrived at one of the formal entrances, rather than what the park system refers to as a “wildcat trail,” so he immediately discovered what was going on. But what if he had entered the park from his parents’ house, which abuts Sand Run?
And what about all those other people who live adjacent to the five other parks where deer are being taken this year?
When Glass called the park system to complain, he was told no advance notice is necessary because safety is not a problem. The parks have been doing this since 2004, he was told, without any problem at all.
“You got lucky,” Glass replied.
Glass thought the explanation was lame, and called me. I thought he had a point.
Metro Parks spokesman Nathan Eppink acknowledges that no notice is given, but says the possibility of an accident is extremely remote.
“The parks are patrolled by rangers and staff for several hours before it begins, and the culling is done after dark, in freezing temperatures, when there are few people who want to be in the Metro Parks.”
Still, isn’t there a decent chance that some hearty soul would wander in with no knowledge of what’s going on?
“I think there’s very little chance of that happening,” he said. “The parks are closed, barricades are up, we have people patrolling.”
But you can’t barricade a whole park.
“No, we can’t barricade the perimeters of the park, but we have staff in the area to prevent any interaction with visitors.”
When asked why the park couldn’t at least provide advance warning through the media, rather than sending individual letters to property owners, Eppink said, “It’s very weather-dependent and the window is short. They might say, ‘Next Monday we’re going to be in Sand Run,’ but if there’s a foot of snow and there’s going to be a blizzard, they’re not going to go out Monday.”
Eppink said the local program is patterned after other successful programs in the region, such as the one run by Cleveland Metroparks.
Well, not exactly.
Cleveland Metroparks spokesman Sue Allen says her organization does give advance warning — and has since the inception of the deer management program in 1998.
This year, 2,800 letters have been sent. They go to all adjacent property owners as well as public officials in the affected areas.
And Cleveland doesn’t stop there.
“We are starting deer management in West Creek Reservation in Parma, our newest, and there are folks who have questions,” she said. “We have told them that if they call, even if they don’t have property adjacent to the park, we will send them letters about when deer management is starting.”
Granted, a number of safety precautions are taken in Summit’s parks, and the sharpshooters — park employees — fire downward. When the hunt is taking place near a road, they shoot from an 8-foot perch on a truck. When tree stands are used, they shoot from 30 feet up.
But if Cleveland believes mailing letters is well worth the expense, why doesn’t Summit County, where taxpayers just approved a renewal levy that brings the parks $15.8 million a year?
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.