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Developments to call for Woodbury hunting map revisions

Living in a city like Woodbury brings about challenges of combining urban and rural lifestyles.

For one Victoria Heights neighborhood resident, it's the hunting zone less than a mile away from her home, where an elementary school is smack-dab in the middle, that has become a nuisance and safety concern for the mother of a 6-year-old girl.

The St. Catherine University professor, who declined to share her name for safety reasons, said she is in no way against hunting or those who love to hunt.

But the restricted hunting zone in the rural area off of Bailey Road is too close to the walking trails and park she frequently uses with her family.

"It's important for hunters to be able to hunt," she said. "At the same time residents need to feel safe."

An avid runner and marathoner, the woman said she hears sounds of gunshots early in the mornings almost all year long.

"It wakes up the kids and the kids get scared," she said.

It's not the first time a Woodbury resident raised concerns over hunting in the area south of Bailey Road, Public Safety Director Lee Vague said.

People move into a residential neighborhood near a hunting zone and when they consistently hear gunshots they start calling police wondering if it's legal or not, he said.

"I think some people are a little surprised by that," Vague said.

The Woodbury hunting map has a large section marked closed to hunting, another for restricted hunting with permit only, and one that's open for hunting based on DNR guidelines.

Although the map allows for hunting in a big part of southern Woodbury, it hasn't been updated since 2008.

So the city reviews current state of development in specific parcels before issuing individual hunting permits every year, Vague said.

"The reality of what the changes are and what the map looks like will probably be a little bit different," he said.

The city also reviews the hunting map on a regular basis to make any necessary changes as neighborhoods continue to develop.

A down economy is the reason behind an outdated hunting map that hasn't been updated in four years.

"With the economy being what it is and the slowdown in new homes starts ... it has been a little bit of a longer time frame than usual," Vague said.

The map is due for a comprehensive update in the spring of 2013, now that East Ridge High School has been open for more than three years, and the housing market is starting to pick up again, Vague added.

Vague anticipates some of the parcels near the high school and Bailey Elementary will be closed off to hunting, but the final decision will be up to the City Council, he said.

Neighborhood meetings with residents as well as hunters will also help determine which areas of the hunting map are more concerning than others, he added.

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle, who also lives in the Victoria Heights neighborhood, said she doesn't mind being close to the hunting zone because it's still far enough from her home.

"It's across Bailey," she said. "I know it sounds closer than it is."

The only time she hears gunshots is during goose hunting season, but it doesn't bother her enough to raise concerns about that particular hunting zone.

"I'm not scared of a stray bullet," Mayer-Bruestle said.

Another neighbor on Chesham Lane, Ken Vogel, a hunter himself, said the noise hasn't been a problem for him either.

"It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I'm an early riser."

But for the St. Kate's professor, it's not just the noise that's concerning or the fact that she lives that close to the hunting zone.

"Right smack in the middle of it is the elementary school," she said of Bailey Elementary.

The kids use the playground outside, she takes her daughter there on a regular basis and she and her husband often run on the trail at 5 p.m. when it starts to get dark out.

"What if they're out there shooting and they don't see us," she said.

The woman understands that farmland has been there long before her residential development was built and it has been a tradition for hunters to use it in that way.

But she hopes the city will soon start talking about how that area of Woodbury is becoming more and more urban.

"If anybody was injured I think it would be a very serious issue," she said.

Vague acknowledged her concerns but said there are private parcels within the area that fit DNR guidelines deemed safe for shotgun hunting.

"It's not quite as cumbersome as maybe it initially appears," he said, but added, "We think an updated map will certainly help."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.