By David Loomis
INDIANA – Guy walks into a public park, climbs a tree, strings a bow and shoots a deer with an arrow.
Complaints are echoing on local social media. They express surprise that hunting is permitted in the woods, White Township’s 250-acre recreational forest preserve that lies within a mile of downtown Indiana borough.
It’s where the bow-hunting incident allegedly occurred in mid-October, according to state game commission warden Chris Reidmiller, who investigated.
“We identified the hunter,” Reidmiller said in a Nov. 20 phone interview. “It’s not an individual that’s foreign to the Game Commission.”
But the suspected hunter probably won’t be cited by his agency, Reidmiller added. The evidence is entirely hearsay, and no physical evidence connects the hunter and the deer to White Township property.
HOWEVER, Reidmiller advised, the township could avoid confusion by closing a loophole in an ordinance that admits people with weapons into White’s Woods.
Section 189-2 of the township’s code states, “No person shall discharge any firearms upon any land owned by the Township of White and held and operated for recreational purposes.” (Italics added.)
But then there’s the township sign posted at a southern entrance to the woods. It reads: “No drugs, alcohol, weapons or firearms are permitted on White Township property.”
If the alleged bow-hunting incident could be corroborated, Reidmiller said, the case “would obviously be a violation of that sign.”
But the code and the sign conflict, discouraging prosecution and generating confusion.
White Township manager Milt Lady acknowledged the confusion.
“You could say there’s a loophole in the ordinance that does permit hunting,” Lady said in a Nov. 20 phone interview. “We have not publicized it. But if hunters ask if they can, we tell them yes.”
THIS TROUBLES Indiana Borough Council member Sara Stewart. Her home adjoins White’s Woods, which she frequents for walks with her husband and her dog.
“We love the woods and, as busy people, see them as an oasis of nature and peace and quiet,” Stewart wrote in a Nov. 22 email. “We know many other people who hike and bike back there, often bringing their dogs and children with them.”
Stewart described the township’s official position of neither permitting nor prohibiting hunting as “the height of irresponsibility.”
“I am not anti-hunting, but there are plenty of places and parks in Indiana County for hunters to hunt,” Stewart wrote. “Some of the parks around here, such as Blue Spruce, are designated for hunting and signed as such. And that’s great.
“But there are also a lot of people who like to enjoy nature without hunting and without the fear of coming into contact with hunters and weapons,” Stewart continued. “People’s dogs get off leash and run through the woods; What happens if one of them gets shot with an arrow or steps in a trap?”
STEWART ENCOURAGED residents to attend White Township Board of Supervisors on Dec. 4. That’s when township manager Lady said revisions to the ordinance may be presented.
Warden Reidmiller, noting public confusion and anger in calls he has fielded, also urged supervisors to act.
“The township needs to make up their mind,” he said.
David Loomis, Ph.D., emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye.
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