Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NEW JERSEY NEWS: Park Employee-Only Hunt Shot Down

A plan to allow only Monmouth County Park System employees to participate in a special "culling" deer hunt next winter at Tatum Park is dead, although hunts open to the public will continue.

A storm of complaints from excluded sportsmen as well as opposition from the anti-hunting community led the county Board of Recreation Commissioners to defeat the employee-only hunt resolution in a split vote Monday night.

The seven residents who spoke during the public hearing mostly ridiculed the idea of park system employees hunting for deer while on the taxpayer's clock, and Commissioner Kevin Mandeville agreed, saying, "I am totally opposed to paying staff to hunt."

The vote was 6-3 against the resolution. Siding with Mandeville were Frederick C. Kniesler, Michael G. Harmon, Violeta Peters, N. Britt Raynor, and Michael W. Brim. Voting in favor of the employee-only hunt were board Chairman Edward J. Loud, Thomas E. Hennessy Jr. and Fred J. Rummel.

However, the commissioners unanimously approved all other elements of the deer management plan for the coming year, which allows deer hunting to continue in the same 15 park areas as last season. The hunts will begin in October at various scheduled times over a 4 1/2-month period and take place in parks in Middletown, Marlboro, Millstone Township, Upper Freehold, Howell, Roosevelt, Holmdel, Wall, Tinton Falls, Neptune and Freehold Township.

New to the program is the establishment of a $20 fee for a so-called deer harvest access permit. Officials said that the revenue is needed because of the county's budget woes and that the money can also offset "program expenses," though they conceded that people who were infrequent hunters in the past may be unlikely to sign up for the permit.

West Long Branch resident Gerard P. Natale, who is an official with several sportsmen's clubs, said hunters already pay for use of the parks through their tax dollars and shouldn't have to pay an additional fee.

"I'm a Monmouth County resident," said Steve Ferrara, Red Bank. "If someone from Ocean County wants to hunt here and you want to charge them, I guess it's OK, but don't charge your own county residents."

Harmon said the fees will be primarily used to ensure program safety.

"We're trying to cover some of the expenses. Maybe you don't see or notice it, but the park rangers are there monitoring you and protecting other people using the park. We appreciate your health and safety, and $20 is nominal for that," Harmon said.

Source: Asbury Park Press

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