Bay City Commission opposes DNR's proposal to expand hunting are - WNEM TV 5

Bay City Commission opposes DNR's proposal to expand hunting area

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
BAY COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

The Bay City Commission opposed the DNR's proposal to turn a local hiking area into hunting grounds.

The Tobico Marsh at Bay City State Recreation Area has more than 1,800 acres used for both hiking and hunting.

Local hikers said changing the hiking and hunting barriers creates a major safety concern.

For more than 30 years people have been hiking and camping at the state park. Now a proposal from the DNR is looking to expand hunting in the area as well.

People concerned about the possible change reached out to TV5, worried it would mean less hiking space. TV5 went to state park manager George Lauinger to ask the tough questions.

"Yes, some of that would include existing trails that hikers currently use. I mean, hikers can still use those trails but now we'll be classifying. If that proposal passes we'll be classifying that as a multi-use area," Lauinger said.

Hunting would be restricted to certain areas within the park. Particularly Tobico Marsh, a large watershed filled with trails and pathways for campers to walk through.

Lauinger said the area is being overrun by deer.

"It's about 2,000 acres, roughly half of that is currently open to hunting. And since natural predators such as wolves are gone, people have to step in and take that role of managing the populations of wildlife," Lauinger said.

The increased hunting in the area is also raising concerns for residents.

"I think there's plenty of areas to hunt around the state. There's so many deer out in the crop fields and that kind of thing, but to take them out of an area like this. Unless it's a real problem, I don't think it's a good idea," said Darrin McNabb, Pigeon resident.

Lauinger doesn't see much of an issue with sharing the space and said safety precautions will be in place for both hikers and hunters in the area.

"If you take the precautions that the DNR encourages hikers and non-hunters to take when using areas frequented by hunters, then there shouldn't be any conflicts," Lauinger said.

The DNR's natural resources commission was scheduled to vote on the proposal on Aug. 10, but due to public outcry they postponed the vote.

Several residents attended a meeting on Aug. 7 to share their concerns about the proposal.

“We care about the environment, we care about the community, and we care about each other,” said State Rep. Brian Elder. “The people present at the meeting weren’t there because they loved controversy — they were there because they’re invested in making sure that a decision of that size would have a truly positive outcome for all. The plan that the department showed us on Monday would not have accomplished that, so I am glad to see the commission is willing to regroup and gather more information before making a decision.” 

On Aug. 21 the Bay City Commission directed staff to send a letter to the DNR advising them Bay City opposes the proposed changed.

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