PATAPSCO — Two years of planning and persuasion paid off for Carroll County sportsmen's groups Wednesday night when they won their hard-fought campaign to open a portion of Patapsco Valley State Park to hunting.
Ata meeting at Freedom High School in Eldersburg, officials of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources presented their decision to allow bow-and-arrow hunting in two designated areas of the park comprising approximately 500 acres.
The areas to be opened include two tracts bordering the Patapsco River's South Branch, extending roughly from Sykesville on the west to an area near the closed Henryton State Center on the east.
Raincliff and Arrington roads form the approximate northern boundaries. Parking areas will be designated for use only by hunters with permits.
Ten or 12 deer permits per day will be issued during the season, from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. Hunters will be able to obtain permits throughPatapsco Valley State Park Headquarters, 8020 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City.
Don Gaver, DNR's northern regional parks manager, said that ordinarily the DNR simply would have issued a ruling regarding the taking of game on state land. However, the public meetingto announce the decision was in response to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's instruction to create a more open dialogue with interested groups, such as sportsmen.
Steve Weidman, president of the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association, expressed delight that his group's long-range efforts to open more public lands to hunting had produced the desired result.
"At the present time, unless you have a friend whowill allow you to hunt on their property, there's no place to hunt in Carroll County," he said. "We need more places where parents can take their youngsters out and show them how to hunt."
Asked if his efforts had encountered much opposition, Weidman, whose group represents over 1,000 Carroll sportsmen, noted that principal objections to hunting in the park had come from an equestrian group. The horsemen have withdrawn their initial objections and agree that the park space can be safely used for both activities.
Some residents of the Sykesville area voiced opposition, because of past problems with hunters using the area illegally.
Roland Gosnell of the Mineral Hill Sportsmen's Association expressed the opinion that opening the park to legal hunting would result in a decrease in illegal hunting activity.
"Legitimate hunting helps to drive out poachers," he said.
Patapsco Park Manager Walt Brown noted that allowing hunters to use the areawill demand a higher degree of DNR presence to insure that the program goes well.
"We'll need to get the kinks worked out as we go along," he said. "Every park is different.
"Our role will be to educate and to regulate use. We'll be checking to see that hunters are using the designated parking spaces, checking permits and making sure hunters are using the proper equipment. We won't necessarily patrol theactual hunting area, but will be observing the fringe areas and theroadways."
Brown notes that the Patapsco deer population is a large, healthy herd.
"I would not say the park is overpopulated with deer at this point, but there is an impact on the surrounding farms and residential areas from Elkridge to Sykesville with deer damaging crops and shrubbery," Brown said. "Deer overpopulation is a growing concern, not just in our area but one that is being addressed in publiclands all across the state.
"There are no easy solutions. Deer are versatile animals who deal well with changing environmental pressures."
Brown does not feel, however, that allowing 10 or 12 bow hunters to use the 500-acre tract each day will have a significant impactupon the numbers of deer in the area.
Weidman expressed the hope that if the program is carried out successfully, other areas will be opened to hunters on public lands.
Some hunters present felt that to allow hunting during the pre-rut season in September would be a more equitable solution.
"In setting the season later, we are attempting to be sensitive to the biological cycles of deer reproduction," hunter Don Raver said. "We are also taking into account the safety factor regarding the time of year the hunting will be allowed."
Hunter Steve Weidman noted DNR had been cooperative with the sportsmen's efforts to obtain hunting on public land.
"Now it's up to these guys to make it work," he said.
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