Editor’s Note: This version corrects who made the ruling. We regret the error.
Hunting and sharp shooting will be allowed to go forward in the parks. Bow hunting is proposed to start this weekend.
An injunction was filed by a group of people wanting to stop it, but Alexander wrote in the ruling that they didn’t show “clear and convincing evidence that the public interest would be served by the injunction.”
Alexander added that while the “court respects the thoughtfulness and concerns of the plaintiffs, we are compelled to defer to the experts with respect to the proper management of the deer population.”
“We’re really in the first inning of a nine-inning ball game,” said Attorney Marc Dann.
Dann represents the citizens who are suing the park. They are concerned over the possibility of trespassing, stray bullets, wounded deer wandering into traffic or their property, and other concerns.
Dann says they are in the process of appealing the magistrate’s decision.
“We’re going to continue to do what we can to make sure that neighbors who live around the park are safe, that people who want to walk the trails in the park are safe, that hunters with powerful crossbows don’t end up causing them harm or fear,” Dann said.
Dann says he expects the appeals process to be lengthy.
“The issue that we’ve raised here, whether the Mill Creek Park Board has the legal authority to allow this hunting to go on, is an issue that has never been determined before in this state,” Dann said.
Mill Creek MetroParks Community Engagement Director Aaron Young said he is pleased with Alexander’s ruling.
“We are pleased with the magistrate’s ruling on this issue and look forward to continuing to actively manage the MetroParks for the benefit of both current and future generations,” Young said.
On Thursday, the courtroom was full of advocates for and against the hunt.
Trumbull County Commissioner Denny Malloy is also a regional director of the wildlife group known as Whitetails Unlimited.
“‘Whitetails Unlimited’: That’s just legalized government poaching,” Malloy said.
He said that while hunting is a legitimate way to manage the deer population, he disagrees with the park’s plans.
“That makes my stomach turn,” Malloy said. “There’s no tradition with that. There’s no sport to that. That is basically calling an exterminator to get rid of the deer.”
Local veterinarian Donald Allen is one of those who filed the suit, claiming the best course is allowing Mother Nature to take over.
“When man steps in to interfere with Mother Nature, he generally screws up,” Allen said.
The deer hunting program is set to begin this weekend in certain sections of park land, but several witnesses worry hunters won’t adhere to the boundaries.
“I mean, this map — nobody’s going to follow this, I’m sorry. Nobody’s going to follow it,” said Kathryn Hamilton, who opposes the planned hunt.
Park directors say Mill Creek Park is the only facility of its kind in Ohio without a deer management program, and those involved in the scheduled hunt say the deer population here is now threatening vegetation all around the park district.
The park’s natural resources manager Nick Derico claims not managing the deer population would be irresponsible.
“MetroParks is charged to preserve and conserve and protect the lands within our holdings — that includes all species of plants and wildlife,” Derico said.