Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - A new law will allow hunters access to state parks. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a bill that will allow people to hunt and trap in all state parks, including the ones right here in the Chippewa Valley. The law takes effect on January 1st.
"We want to be able to offer different types of recreation to everyone," says Scott Erickson, the Property Supervisor at Lake Wissota State Park.
At Lake Wissota State Park, around the time the leaves begin to disappear, so do the majority of campers. The new state law could increase the flow of traffic to state parks during the winter months.
Erickson says, "This is going to open up opportunity for small game hunting seasons, all major seasons in Wisconsin parks, so that's a big change for us."
The Sporting Heritage Bill was approved by state legislature earlier this year and will open up hunting and trapping in state parks. There are some limits, hunting is not allowed within 100 yards of a campground, picnic area or beach. The suggested timeline would allow hunting from October 15th to just before Memorial Day weekend.
"People are very passionate about their parks, they care what's going on here and it will be a little bit of a heated issue," says, Erickson.
La Crosse resident, Rick Turner, says, "It might make me think twice about wanting to hike, to tell you the truth. Because if I know there are people out there shooting and stuff, it might take the fun out of it for me
Some of the designated hunting areas could cross paths with trails that are used year round. WQOW News 18 wanted to know what kinds of precautions state parks will take, in order to keep people safe.
"One thing that we want to do for safety is to make sure that we have the word out to every visitor who does come into the park. That you know, if they come in after October 15th, that there are hunting seasons that are currently in the park and we're going to want to have a hunting map published for those folks," explains Erickson.
Another recommendation is for hikers, bikers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, and cross country skiers, to wear highly visible clothing when they are on the trails.
Jim Falls resident, George Abendroth, says, "I would be afraid to come over here when people are hunting, unless I was wearing blaze orange, which I don't own. And I bring my dog over here for a walk and he might look like a wild animal to a hunter."
"I'm a hunter and I wouldn't want somebody walking past my tree stand or whatever. I would probably get pretty ticked off, so I don't think it's a good idea," says Dale Geib, a resident of West Bend, WI.
The Natural Resources Board will be holding five listening sessions to get public input.
Erickson says, "This is law and it is something that we are going to implement and we want to have a safe plan to be able to do that, so come on out and voice your opinion."
In the past, deer and turkey hunting has been allowed in some state parks. This law has already been passed, but the DNR would like your ideas on how to keep safety a priority in state parks.
There will be a listening session in Eau Claire on October 30th. It will be held at Chippewa Valley Technical College at 6:30pm. The address is 620 W. Clairemont Ave.
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