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Residents urge protection of Mill Creek deer

CANFIELD – For all of her life, Janet Bernard has lived within walking distance of Mill Creek Park, and she is saddened by what she sees as a major discrepancy between the park’s condition years ago and today.

“I want to see the park being more family-oriented as I feel it was in the past,” Bernard, 70, of Youngstown, said.

She was among more than a dozen people who spoke during Monday’s MetroParks board meeting at the MetroParks Farm on state Route 46 about what they see as a general neglect and deterioration of the acreage.

Many also voiced their fervent opposition to the proposed deer hunt.

The justification for killing the animals is based on inaccurate information, said Bernard, who also read aloud during her public comments an excerpt from the John C. Melnick book “The Green Cathedral: The History of Mill Creek Park.”

The portion Bernard quoted states in part: “God created it, Volney Rogers preserved it, and the people have maintained this wonderful legacy. This gentle wilderness must be protected and preserved for our children’s grandchildren so they, too, can enjoy nature at its best …”

“The physical and mental damage (to the park) is insane,” Lana Vanauker of Canfield, who lives near Sawmill Creek Preserve, said in her comments to the board. “Let us respect all living things.”

In denouncing the proposed hunt, Vanauker added that contraception programs to limit the deer population in Ohio are legal, and that one each is taking place near Cleveland and Cincinnati. Also, children need to be taught how valuable the animals are to nature, a diverse park ecosystem and to humanity, she continued.

Others suggested that building fencing and implementing greater habitat restoration efforts should take place regarding limiting deer populations in lieu of hunting.

The park board recently implemented a white-tailed deer management plan, the core components of which include maintaining healthy populations in a sustainable way within “the ecological carrying capacity of the land” to allow for the natural regeneration of native vegetation; restoring and maintaining ecological balance via best-management practices regarding wildlife and habitat management; and restoring and maintaining the ecological integrity of park properties.

An overabundance of white-tailed deer in the park and throughout northeast Ohio has become a threat to many native ecosystems, the effects of which are disproportionately seen in urban and suburban areas, the plan says. It noted that the problem dates to the mid-1990s.

The plan also cited several disease concerns related to the deer that include Lyme disease, as well as other problems the animals pose, such as property and landscape damage and deer-vehicle collisions.

Several at Monday’s session also worried that a stray bullet from a sharpshooter could miss its target and possibly strike a person, car or home in the vicinity of the intended target.

Others who spoke expressed general concerns about what they say are the poor condition of the Lily Pond, Fellows Riverside Gardens and some of the trails. Additional problems, some said, include many dead trees that pose a hazard, the recent use of herbicide sprays with unknown chemical compositions being applied to certain vegetation near the Scholl Recreation Area and the need for more police.

Also during the sometimes contentious meeting, a Youngstown man suggested that the proposed deer hunt be tabled until next year, when the controversial issue can be placed on the ballot.

Board President Lee Frey said that deer contraception programs are illegal in Ohio, unless they are funded by private citizens, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reviewing them.

“It is not an option,” Frey said, adding that park officials will look at the condition of the Lily Pond.

He noted that, contrary to many people’s fears about the hunts, they will not take place in Youngstown city limits. In addition, sharpshooters will wear night vision equipment and shoot from an elevated position toward the ground, eliminating the likelihood of someone or something accidentally being shot, Frey explained.

The next board meeting was moved to 6 p.m. Sept. 18 at the MetroParks Farm.

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