By JIM MAURER
The annual hunting-with-permission game management program on part of Litzenberg Memorial Woods, south of U.S. 224, will be shortened by two months this year to provide more opportunity for hikers and others to use the land.
Hunting by permit will be allowed Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.
The Hancock Park District board on Tuesday unanimously approved the action.
In a report to the board, park district Director Gary Pruitt listed several reasons for the change, which will allow other uses of the area in late summer and early fall, such as horseback riding, photography, birdwatching, educational programs, park maintenance and land management.
Pruitt said with less hunting, there will be more time to make improvements to the trail system at Litzenberg Memorial Woods, which are awaiting completion of similar work at Riverbend Recreation Area. The Litzenberg trail improvements will include trail realignment, new trail posts and signs, development of a new trail map, and development of a new park brochure.
He also said reduced hunting will allow photographers more time to use the property. The park district has a year-long photography contest which provides monthly recognition.
Pruitt also said the park district’s program department staff would use the area for outdoor recreational activities and educational programs for the public and school groups.
The hunting-with-permission lottery is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 10 in the activity barn at Litzenberg Memorial Woods. The lottery has been used by the park district since 1993, and shortening the timeline will not adversely affect hunting in the area, according to Pruitt.
Most hunting permits are effective after Nov. 1, according to Pruitt. Hunting timelines that are earlier than Nov. 1 will be shortened, but will still provide adequate time for interested hunters, he said.
For instance, deer archery permits will be reduced by five weeks, but still will provide 12 weeks to hunt. Small game permits for squirrel and mourning dove and ruffed grouse will be reduced two to eight weeks, but 12 weeks will be available to hunt.
Since 2011, the number of hunting permits issued for Litzenberg has declined from a high of 69 in 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 to a low of 39 permits in 2016-2017.
Available permits will be issued at the lottery program only, and the rules will be revised so a lottery permit recipient will not be required to “sit out” the next year’s lottery if the permit is not used at least once.
“Hancock Park District staff shouldn’t spend time tracking hunters who choose to not hunt after receiving a permit,” according to Pruitt’s report, “and then spend time tracking hunters who are ineligible to hunt during the following year.”
New signs will be installed which prohibit hiking and horseback riding on the land during hunting season.
The current signs do not specifically prohibit horseback riding and “the message is not serious enough in its effort to restrict access to all except hunters during the posted hunting season,” according to Pruitt’s report.
There have been instances of park visitors ignoring the signs and accessing the trails during hunting season.
The hunting area boundary map will be revised, too.
Litzenberg is not the only public hunting area in the county, Pruitt said. He listed the Findlay reservoir (with required permit), Van Buren State Park, Hancock County landfill wetland pond (by permission only), and seven Hancock County Wildlife Production Areas, managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which provide more than 344 acres.
Those areas are in: Allen Township, 57 acres, intersection of Township 114 and 232; Eagle Township, about 46 acres on Hancock County 2, about 0.2 mile east of Hancock County 60; Madison Township, about 40 acres on Hancock County 2, about 0.5 mile east of Township 177; Portage Township, about 51 acres on Ohio 613 about 0.5 mile east of Township 136; Blanchard Township, 41 acres, about 0.25 mile north of Township 90; Liberty Township, about 55 acres on Township 89, about 0.2 mile east of Hancock County 139; and Orange Township, about 48 acres about 0.5 mile east of Township 56 and 27.
These areas are not maintained, and have no trails or designated parking areas. Hunters park on the side of the road and are governed by the state’s hunting and trapping regulations. Hunting is allowed in the protection areas with a valid state hunting license, said Bob Sams, park district natural resource manager.
Park Commissioner Ed Ingold said the current Litzenberg hunting program is “not cost effective” as a lot of manpower is spent to document and track the hunting program, and relatively few people use the program. The land could be better utilized for more people, he said.
“I have nothing against hunting,” he said. As a hunter himself, Ingold said, there are other state and county properties available.
He suggested doing away with hunting on park district properties except for a November weekend youth hunt. Such a hunt would be conducted following participation in a youth safety program, he said. Nonprofit hunting groups could be contacted to assist, and sponsors could be sought, too.
Park Commissioner Scott Younger said the Litzenberg proposal by Pruitt “is reasonable” and the youth safety program would have to wait another year as there is not sufficient time prior to the hunting lottery this year.
Park Commissioner Chairman Gary Hirschfeld praised Pruitt’s extensive and thorough report.
Separately, the board approved a request to sealcoat and stripe the parking lot at Waterfalls Area on East Main Cross Street near the Riverside Park dam. The plan would be included in the park district’s 2018 budget.
The plan would create a one-way-in, one-way-out traffic pattern with six parking spaces, including a handicapped-accessible van space.
Also, “stop,” “do-not-enter” and “enter only” signs would be installed and concrete parking blocks would be placed, too. The board discussed possibly fewer marked parking spaces, which would be slightly wider for easier vehicle access.
Separately, the board held an executive session to consider compensation of a public employee. No action was taken.
Following the board meeting, park district personnel visited Mount Cory and Rawson community parks to talk with village personnel and view improvements at each park.
The park district provides nearly $100,000 annually for assistance with city and village park improvements.
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