After a night of impassioned comment about hunting and the right to tranquility, the Town Board decided to form a task force to foster a compromise for the use of city-owned land surrounding Yankeetown Pond.
Many of the 41 residents who live along or near the pond, many hunters and some from other towns formed a standing-room-only crowd Woodstock’s Town Hall to make the case for peace and quiet, or for the right to hunt on the land. Despite the crowd’s size, the board stayed and gave everyone who desired a chance to speak before then letting folks speak for a third or even fourth turn.
The best outcome is for “those who have strong opinions really check each other out,” Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said, hoping the two sides have a compromise within them.
The board will seek citizens on both sides of the issue to volunteer for a task force that will be charged with coming up with ways to accommodate both interests. Then it will be the town’s job to implement it.
“What we have now is nine months of continuous hunting,” said Betsy Stang, who recalled a close call with a stray bullet from a high-powered rifle.
Several years ago, a bullet pierced her computer monitor, which could have ended tragically, she explained.
“We market Woodstock as peace and love. We don’t market Woodstock as a hunting town,” Stang said, adding the issue is not deer hunting, but the possibility of hunters during seasons spanning nine months of the year. “People have no clue this is going on.”
But Jay Martin, a past president of the Federated Sportsmen of Ulster County, said a lot of misinformation is being spread about hunting.
“It’s incumbent on this board to check the veracity of these statements,” he said. While different hunting seasons may span over nine months, realistically people will not be hunting on the land nine months of the year, he noted.
“I love the woods. I also hunt,” said Sue Reynolds. “Many of these hunters, I’d like you to remember, are woodsmen. Many of the times we come out with nothing. We still have a good time.”
No compromise from DEP
Nancy Butler-Ross, one of the neighbors who originally brought this issue to the town, presented the board with a 500-signature petition urging hiking only on the land.
“Please protect this parcel and its residents, human and wildlife, as well,” she said.
The vast majority of people are not anti-hunting, said Joe Nicholson. “The way the DEP is being inflexible…that’s the problem,” he said.
The city Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Ashokan Reservoir watershed, began to allow hunting on 828 acres it owns surrounding Yankeetown Pond late last year.