The following is part of a transcript from the Oct. 14, 2014 Board of Selectmen meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.
8:39 p.m. – The majority of the audience left the room as the Selectmen went up to the Hunting Policy Committee’s recommended policy for hunting on Selectmen owned lands.
HPC chairman Al Prescott began a presentation highlighting the policy as well as laws regarding to state owned parcels.
Prescott said that the proposed policy for Selectmen-owned parcels is for archery only, stationary hunting only, that discharge could not occur near trails and that the season would occur between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31
Permits would be issued to Westford residents only and would be limited to one hunter per 10 acres.
There are seven specific parcels and hunters would apply via a lottery if there are too many applying for a permit.
The permit would need to be displayed on a vehicle dashboard, Selectmen could take away permits, trees cannot not be damaged by hunting stands, stands would have to be removed 30 days after the season and more limitations were mentioned.
Prescott then mentioned the trail limitation and the season limitations.
The next part of the presentation said that signage would be required and that trail users should be required to wear orange during this season.
The lottery and permit applications will be due in August.
Hazelton thanked the HPC for its work.
Hazelton talked about concerns from town counsel about leaving the town harmless and was also concerned about legal issues regarding limiting hunting to Westford residents only. However, he noted that if there were valid reasons, it could be defensible.
Kelly Ross, the Selectmen liaison to the HPC, thanked Prescott for keeping the meetings civil. His only item was that some trails on Selectmen owned land are already marked by signs.
He said that if this policy is approved, it wouldn’t be practical to put in a lottery for this season and an interim “first come, first served” policy could be used for this season and that this might impact town staff somehow.
Siriani asked if this was comparable to other nearby communities, Prescott said it was and some other towns came in and talked about theirs and talked about the work done on the policy.
Siriani said that the work done was likely why there was such a positive vote on the policy.
Hazelton asked why the lottery was being held in August and asked what would happen if open spots existed and people wanted to ask for permits after August.
Chambers said he talked with Chief McEnaney about the policy and the Chief requested that permit owners notify the Police Department when and where they are when hunting and what permit they have and what their license number is to cut down on calls.
Prescott said that he was told by the Chief that people leave their permission on their dashboard, although Chambers said that police still need to check.
Kelly Ross asked how important it is to have the specific day. Chambers said that people still call the police when they see a person driving onto a parcel with a bow regardless of their license number or permit.
Hazelton said that there was a similar policy for burn permits and the Fire Deparment.
Chambers said that there was also a similar policy with the Town Common.
Kelly Ross asked if there were any times of day this specifically could be done, Chambers replied that the Police Department is open 24 hours anyway.
9:01 p.m. Jasmine Gutbrod of 74 Depot St. said that hunting is not ready to be a hunting community and she is terrified about hunting season corresponding with trail walking season, particularly at the East Boston Camps.
She talked about gunshots and conservation areas as well as trying to limit people from leaving trails.
Hazelton said that the East Boston Camps was not one of the parcels being discussed and hunting was already prohibited there.
It was also mentioned that this proposed policy also only talks about bow hunting.
Kelly Ross asked about a sliver of land between the Stony Brook conservation land (which includes the East Boston Camps) and the Stony Brook School that had additional limitations were in that area during cross country running season.
He also mentioned that hunting cannot occur within 50 feet of trails and that arrows could not be shot toward trails.
Gutbrod asked who would be monitoring this.
Kelly Ross asked who would monitor anything.
Hazelton then noted that the arrows would be shot downward.
An unnamed man said he had two concerns and could not reply during earlier meetings because he was in India.
He was asked for his name, it was Kaio Dotiwala of 11 Buckboard Dr.
He asked about the distance of arrows shot as well as possible damage to nearby cars since arrow shots are unsuccessful 80 percent of the time according to a study in Minnesota.
He said he felt extremely uncomfortable and noted the concerns about child safety earlier in the evening about with the sidewalk and that this policy would harm child safety.
Dotiwala also said all of this was dependent upon the ethics of the hunter, which is very questionable.
Kelly Ross noted that hunting is already happening and the only current limitations are state laws.
Hazelton then noted that Selectmen are governed by Town Meeting and the last time hunting was mentioned at Town Meeting was in 1991, were a vote to ban hunting was defeated and later in the year a vote to ban firearm hunting was approved.
Dotiwala asked if a 150 feet buffer from a trail could be given since the current state law requires 150 feet buffer is currently in place for roads.
He said that requiring orange jackets for all children was infeasible.
Prescott reiterated that hunting is occurring and noted statistics on hunting and deer. Out of 28,000 calls per year made to the Police Department, only five are about hunting and none are about injuries.
Gutbrod then made a comment, but did not go to the microphone.
She said that families don’t think about stats when they walk on trails.
Jodi Ross asked if there was a fee in the permit.
Kelly Ross said that a fee wasn’t added and that if a fee was added, that would give the town added responsibility.
Siriani said he felt comfortable with accepting the policy, although he noted that Chambers’ request was reasonable.
He also said that to residents concerned about hunting in general that this process adds to public safety since this defines a policy to regulate hunting. This helps keep hunters accountable.
Kelly Ross made a motion to approve the policy with amendments regarding the Police Department request as well as an indemnification to the town and the interim policy.
The policy was approved 3-0-0.
Hazelton thanked everyone for their compromise since some hunters wanted to keep things as they are and some people wanted no hunting.