A final resolution was passed at the Washington Township Committee meeting on Monday night which authorized bid solicitation by hunting groups for , a measure which the township hopes will control its ever-increasing deer population.
Residents who live nearby to one of the parcels of land that could be authorized for use by hunting groups—a 131-acre piece of land between Reservoir Road and Route 46—came out to Monday night’s meeting to express their
Michael Santiago, who moved to a residence on Reservoir Road to start a family in 2004, was concerned that this measure would create even more privacy and safety issues for he and his family. According to Santiago, he has seen several hunters in the woods directly behind his house.
“When the brush thins out, I can actually see guys back there that are essentially on my property,” said Santiago. “What I’m worried about are the people who are not gonna be so responsible in what they do, not to mention the amount of people it may bring in that are not from the community.”
Several nearby residents agreed with those sentiments. Many are concerned that stray bullets could strike a child who is playing outdoors in a nearby backyard.
“Who really goes back to ensure that they shoot only at deer, and that there’s not any other play going on back there?” said resident Lisa Salamone. “I have children in my yard every day, and I beg you to reconsider this. Don’t do it in the face of my children. That’s what I’m asking.”
“I moved to Long Valley from Brooklyn, New York. I’ve lived with fire trucks, police cars, car alarms. Not much frightens me,” added fellow resident Christine Tornabene. “After paying an enormous lot premium for privacy, piece, and tranquility, I jump now. We paid to live here precisely for what you are proposing to take away.”
The resolution, which passed by a 4-1 committee vote, was largely defended by the members of the Washington Township Committee as a measure to make hunting safer in an area where it already occurs illegally.
“We’re choosing the wild west versus a long history of these hunting clubs who know how to be stewards of the land,” said Vice Mayor Jim Harmon.
Safety is also partially up to the families who live near the potentially affected areas by observing when hunting is going to take place in nearby wooded areas.
“I live next to the woods. I have people that hunt in the woods behind my house, as well,” said committeeman Bill Roehrich. “I know, and my family knows, when they’ll be back there and they know to be careful.”
Dave Kennedy, the lone committee member who opposed the resolution, did so not only with safety concerns for nearby residents, but with liability concerns for the township itself.
“My big thing is obviously a safety thing. Having worked in Roxbury, areas were being hunted in Roxbury by the same people, houses would get hit. It’s very, very difficult to figure out who shot it,” said Kennedy. “I’m not for it. I think the risk outweighs the reward. If someone were to get hurt on that, regardless of the insurance policy (the hunting clubs) would bring forward, we’re gonna get sued.”
The next step in this process is for the township to review bids from hunting clubs that would permit them to use the land. According to Washington Township Mayor Ken Short, several groups have already inquired about submitting a bid. At any rate, the township has no obligation to accept or deny any of them.