Kettle's hunting green lighted?

Under a proposed change to Island County Code, hunters would have unlimited access to the Kettles Trail system for two and a half months each fall.

As part of a wider proposal, the Board of Island County Commissioners recommended that the county-owned portion of the Kettles area be open to hunting from Sept. 15 to the end of November each year. A public hearing on the issue has yet to be scheduled.

“This is an attempt to give everybody a chance at public property,” Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said. “This will give everybody a chance to do what they do.”

As a result of the other proposed alterations to county code, shooting a gun in the northern section of the Greenbank Farm trails area will be against the law.

Shelton said that hunting is already very limited in the area and the proposed changes do not result in that much land lost to hunters.

Public Works Director Bill Oakes’ department oversees the properties involved with the changes. On land the Parks Department operates, hunting is already banned.

Oakes said the changes will allow for a more diverse group of people to have access to public lands.

“The proposal is not to bar any user, but to allow hunting,” he said. “It’s a way to allow all users of publicly owned open space to use the open space.”

Allowing hunting at Kettles made the most sense to Shelton. It is among the least densely populated areas and is one of the largest open spaces on Whidbey Island, he said.

“Kettles is a significant parcel of property,” he said. “If we have large parcels of public property that people hunt on, it will take the pressure off of areas that are smaller where people shouldn’t be hunting.”

The county-owned portion of the Kettles area is 243 acres.

One of the other changes that could occur is a no-shooting buffer around Deer Lagoon in Useless Bay. The proposed ordinance would establish a 150-foot no shooting area from the edge of the property toward the water. On the dike, it would be a 100-foot no shooting zone.

Current county code limits hunting to more than 150 yards on either side of a recognized trail on public works property. The changes would rid the code of that regulation in the Kettles area.

Shelton said that numerous signs would be posted at the access points warning people that it is an active hunting area.

“We’re not saying that other people can’t use the area,” he said. “I think that a lot of people probably won’t go through there. The basic premise is that we’re trying to recognize that public property is owned by the public.”

Shelton said that this is a fair compromise, as it is for only about 10 weeks of each year.

“That people can use it unencumbered by hunters for the remaining nine and a half months seems reasonable,” he said.

A public hearing will probably occur near the end of September, Oakes said.

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