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Ordinance bans hunting in Esky limits

ESCANABA — After some discussion, the Escanaba City Council unanimously approved a change to the city’s code of ordinances that will ban hunting within city limits.

The ordinance, which was first presented at the April 22 regular council meeting, aimed to address an ongoing issue with hunting on land within the Westside Recreation Area. Over the years, the number of hunting blinds appearing in the recreation area has increased, suggesting the area has become popular with hunters. However, hunters could only be ticketed for hunting within the city limits if they were actively seen discharging a firearm.

The change approved Thursday expands upon the rules against discharging a firearm by explicitly prohibiting hunting activities. Specifically, the amended ordinance reads, “There shall be no hunting of wild or domestic animals within city limits with any kind of air gun, spring gun, cross bow, or firearm or any dangerous weapon. There shall also be no baiting for purposes of hunting or constructing or using a blind or other such structure for the purpose of hunting.”

A provision included in the draft of the ordinance presented at the April 22 meeting that would have prohibited waterfowl hunting in Lake Michigan within 400 feet of a residence on lakefront property was stricken from the ordinance. The proposed limitations were based on state law, making their inclusion in the ordinance unnecessary.

The two major concerns for the council Thursday were when a firearm could be discharged legally and the definition of an “air gun.”

Council Member Ralph Blasier noted the ordinance states a firearm may be discharged “in the lawful defense of his person or property or as otherwise permitted by law,” but does not specify that a firearm can be discharged in the protection of another person.

“What I wouldn’t want to happen is somebody — Mr. Smith is defending Mrs. Jones and it’s illegal on the face of our ordinance,” said Blasier.

City Manager Patrick Jordan noted any criminal proceedings over the use of a gun against another person would be based on state laws and not the city’s ordinance. That means the defense of another person is still legally protected.

Council Member Tyler DuBord raised different concerns, questioning whether the prohibition on discharging an air gun would prohibit the use of airsoft guns. Airsoft guns are non-lethal weapons that are frequently used in simulated combat scenarios — similar to competitive paintball — or for target shooting.

“Frankly, this just specifically addresses hunting, which I don’t know of anybody who’s going to hunt with an airsoft gun because, quite frankly, you’re not going to be able to kill the animal,” said City Attorney John M. A. Bergman, clarifying that even the portions of the ordinance not related to hunting were aimed at lethal and dangerous weapons.

In other business, the council:

— Held the fourth of five planned public hearings on the city’s budget and set the final public hearing for the May 20 regular council meeting. No one spoke on the issue during Thursday’s public hearing.

— Approved a parade permit and alcohol sales for the Michigan H.O.G. Rally Parade and reception at Rock the Dock on Friday, July 23. The event will be held in conjunction with a H.O.G. Rally taking place in Escanaba.

Council Member Ralph Blasier expressed his support of the event and referenced the recent announcement the Pentagon would not be allowing the use of its parking lots for the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally. Alternative plans have been made for that rally.

“The president of our federal administration has closed down the National Rolling Thunder Rally, for fear of COVID, although when you’re on motorcycles you’ve got to be more than six feet away from everybody else and you’re in the open, but I think we should make a statement here that riding HOGs is a good thing — and we’re talking about motorcycles not pigs,” he said.

— Approved the hire of C2AE of Escanaba to assist the city in preparing an application for a Community Development Block Grant to fund improvements at the Escanaba Water Treatment Plant at a cost not to exceed $20,000. The city could receive as much as $2 million through the grant, while being responsible for a 10% match. This would significantly reduce the cost of the planned upgrade project for the city.

The money to hire C2AE was already budgeted for professional services.

— Approved hiring C2AE for the preparation of a risk and resiliency assessment for the city’s drinking water system, for an amount not to exceed $4,500. The assessment is part of new requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the funds to hire C2AE for this project were also already budgeted by the city.

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