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New rules liberalize Kettles hunting

Deer hunting in the Kettles Trail area will be easier if the county’s proposed new regulations are adopted.

The 243-acre parcel of county-owned land is now crisscrossed by dirt trails, with a rule that shooters must be at least 150-yards from a trail. This precluded hunting from most of the area.

New rules, drawn up by the Public Works Department following a well-attended hearing in September, sets aside a 150-yard buffer from the main, paved Kettles Trail, but opens the rest of the area to hunting. Bill Oakes, public works director, said this will give hunters 195 acres.

The proposed rules anger those who oppose any hunting in the Kettles area. They argue that gunfire poses a danger to hikers, bicyclists, equestrians and others who use the popular trails. Located between Coupeville and Oak Harbor off Highway 20, the trails are easily accessible to all, and are linked to the Town of Coupeville by the paved Kettles Trail.

Darcy Patterson, representing the Island County Trails Council, complains that the county has decided not to include the existing dirt trails in its definition of “non-motorized trails,” thereby opening up more areas to hunting.

“The commissioners seem to interpret the codes, rules and regulations of this county in a manner that suits their purpose or agenda at that particular moment,” Patterson said this week.

At the September hearing, Commissioner Mike Shelton sided with those who want to keep hunting open on county-owned lands. Commissioners Mac McDowell and Bill Byrd expressed similar sentiments, arguing that hunters have a right to use public property, too.

Hunting opponents were adamant that hunting should not be extended in the Kettles area. Bill Hawkins noted that the existing rules made hunting virtually impossible in the area, and he advised against liberalizing those rules. “It would simply be absurd to bring hunting back,” he said.

Hunting would be allowed on all county-owned properties in the trails system from Sept. 15 to Nov. 30 of each year, shorter than the statewide general hunting seasons.

Equally controversial is the decision to keep hunting legal at Deer Lagoon on South Whidbey, where duck hunters annoy nearby property owners with their shooting, and some feel threatened by birdshot falling from the sky.

The proposed new rules allow hunting to continue in the lagoon area, but implement a buffer around the lagoon and a dike to reduce the threat of birdshot.

Dave Haworth, a member of the group opposed to any hunting in the lagoon, said Wednesday that they’ve hired a lawyer, Peter Eglick, to write a letter of concern about the new rules.

“It doesn’t accomplish anything for Deer Lagoon,” Haworth said. “It doesn’t define hunting or weaponry. You could bring a Gatling gun to have target practice out there.”

The rules also allow hunting on a portion of Greenbank Farm property on the south side of the highway, and keeps hunting legal in the Goss Lake Woods area of South Whidbey and Camano Ridge on Camano Island. Again, hunting seasons would be limited to Sept. 15 to Nov. 30.

People can comment on the rules at a hearing Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Coupeville Recreation Center.

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