North Yarmouth selectmen uphold limited hunting in town park

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 Tuesday to keep a limited hunting and trapping policy in Old Town House Park.

The vote came despite a Recreation Commission recommendation that hunting be prohibited in the park.

Resident Steve Gorden, one of the few people in the audience at Tuesday’s public hearing, opposed any change in the policy, which allows deer hunting in November and turkey hunting in May, by permit, from a half hour before sunrise to noon.

“The (deer) hunter is only asking to utilize this area one month, one-twelfth of the time,” Gorden said. “And to eliminate that, I don’t think is equitable.”

Steve Palmer, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the panel also received emails from residents George Fogg and Alex Carr opposing any policy change.

Recreation Commission member Ann Rose said she felt it was “important to have one public park of significant size that is designated a no-hunting zone,” noting that the space is “the most regularly used of the parks that have trails in North Yarmouth, and it does have a soccer field on it.”

Selectman Clark Whittier, who favored the policy change, echoed Rose’s comments.

“It’s a park that’s utilized the most,” he said, noting that hunting is allowed on the remainder of public land.

Palmer acknowledged that the number of registered hunters has dwindled in recent years, but said he could not find any reason in the town ordinance’s parks and recreation language to justify changing the policy.

“We have no information that’s come to us that really indicates that there is a safety concern on this particular park,” he said.

Selectman Mark Girard said “the policy is pretty fair, in terms of allocating … time and use equitably among the various constituents.”

Paul Hodgetts, a Recreation Commission member who opposed the hunting ban recommendation, started a petition in late 2009 for a Town Meeting vote calling for all publicly purchased land to be open for all recreational uses, including hunting.

Although Town Meeting voters in June 2010 rejected a warrant article on that matter, selectmen sensed that the question might have passed if it had been geared around hunting specifically in Old Town House Park.

That sentiment triggered an attempt by the Board of Selectmen and the Recreation Commission to reach a compromise, which led to selectmen voting in August 2010 to allow limiting hunting in Old Town House Park. Its approval echoed a recommendation from the Recreation Commission.

The system was to be revisited in three years to determine how many permits were issued, how the park was used by hunters and what game was taken.

Interim Town Manager Marnie Diffin said in an email last week that 18 permits were issued in 2010-11, followed by eight the following year and five in 2012-13. No game was tagged during those periods.

The approximately 60-acre park off Route 9 represents roughly 25 percent of the town’s public lands. Hunting is allowed on the other 75 percent.

In September 2008, selectmen voted unanimously to permit hunting at the park, subject to easement and deed restrictions. But the panel reversed its decision a year later, voting 4-1 to ban all hunting at the park.

Selectman Darla Hamlin was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.