July 25, 2012 - After months of back-and-forth talks with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Addison Township Board has reached a final agreement on usage of the Watershed Preserve Park.
The ultimate decision of the board was that there need be no conflict between preservation and hunting. A new compromise ordinance allowing hunting in the park was approved at the July 16 meeting.
The compromise will allow for archery hunting during the deer seasons, waterfowl hunting during the designated DNR season with the exception that none be permitted prior to October 1, and fishing within DNR guidelines.
According to the newly ratified ordinance, which formally takes effect Aug. 25, shooting lanes cannot be cut, and hunting blinds must conform to the most current requirements.
No blinds, stands, or platforms that pierce or otherwise damage the bark of any tree are allowed in the park.
Originally purchased in the late 1990s by Addison Township with the aid of grants totalling $2.1 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, today the park retains the purpose of protecting and preserving "in perpetuity the integrity of the extremely sensitive watershed and wildlife habitat areas . . . and to maintain the pristine beauty of the land and waters in an undisturbed and natural state."
(For an overview of this long-developing story please see the January 11, 2011 issue of the Oxford Leader).
The preserve consists of four kettle lakes and a web of sensitive wetlands that provide the headwaters for the Belle, Clinton and Flint River systems.
Before the ordinance revision, hunting was strictly prohibited within the 229-acre park. But complaints about misuse of the park reached the ears of DNR officials who then approached Addison Supervisor Bruce Pearson about nonconformity with the terms of the grants.
According to the agreement signed by Robert Koski, who was supervisor from 1992-2008, the clear indication from Addison Township was that hunting and fishing would be permitted, and the grant was approved under those stipulations.
But for 15 years the park has operated without any hunting being allowed. Faced with either repayment in excess of $2 million or forfeiture of the land, board members realized how serious the matter was. They initiated "frank discussions" with the DNR to craft a compromise ordinance that preserves the natural state of the park, meets the spirit of the original grant, and still maintains the park for the enjoyment of Addison residents.
Public reaction was largely in agreement with the board's choice to allow limited hunting on the property. Many present felt that by not allowing hunting, officials would be remiss in their duties.
For instance, Addison resident Joseph Schnur noted how deer overpopulation causes more than 60,000 traffic accidents per year in Michigan. Animal overpopulation also exacerbates competition for limited vegetation, and will open the door to malnutrition, disease, and starvation.
Much like a controlled burn, hunting is justified as a shrewd management practice that will further the mission of the park, not derail it.
As Schnur put it, in order "to preserve a natural environment, there has to be a predator to keep the population of animals at a level that the environment can support."
Allowing proliferation without check is the opposite of wise stewardship, Schnur indicated, a position with which many present were sympathetic.
Pearson concluded by saying that he felt the township had done very well "protecting the park while satisfying the grant requirements."
Moreover, now that a compromise has been reached with the DNR, Addison will not have to fork over $2.1 million to reappropriate the land.
In a letter read before the assembly, Addison attorney Robert Davis expressed satisfaction with the modified ordinance. "Our goal with the state was twofold: comply with the grant to avoid reimbursement penalties, and minimize hunting activities within the park. We did both."