IRONDALE — The Jefferson County commissioners approved changes to a no-shooting ordinance already in place around lower Chimacum Creek in Irondale in an effort to make the ordinance easier for law enforcement to enforce.
Both changes were approved unanimously by all three commissioners during a public hearing Monday after hearing comments from some of the roughly 20 community members in attendance.
“I do think this is a safety issue, not a hunting issue,” said Commissioner Kathleen Kler. “It’s our responsibility as commissioners to promote public safety.”
The no-shooting ordinance has been in place since 2008. The two approved changes now specify that shooting into a no-shooting area while physically outside the area is prohibited and sets a more rigid boundary along the mouth of the creek where it meets Port Townsend Bay.
A number of Irondale-area residents spoke in favor of the changes, citing safety concerns due to hunters shooting in and around the area, which is a popular recreation area for walking.
“There’s just too many people,” said Howard Learned. “It’s just not a good place. We’re not stopping duck hunting, we’re just stopping duck hunting in that area.”
A small group of hunters from Kitsap County came to voice their opinions against the changes. Paul Stevick called the changes “unnecessary, unenforceable and unfair,” and said at minimum the hunters from outside the county needed clarity on where they would be allowed to anchor their boats and hunt from.
“I think this is more about preventing hunting in the area than it is about safety,” said Mark Hanson, also from Bremerton.
A local hunter, Brian Werner, said the changes would take away the hunting that is a good thing for young people in the community and something that brings people to Jefferson County as counties farther south get more and more populated.
Commissioner David Sullivan said that hunting near Irondale and Port Hadlock is mostly out of the question due to the development plans for that area and the safety concerns over hunting near populated areas.
“I know people feel like they’re losing something but there’s an argument to be made that you lost it a long time ago when we started developing those areas,” Sullivan said.
Commissioner Kate Dean said the no-shooting ordinance, along with the combined land use plans of Jefferson County and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, has allowed lower Chimacum Creek to continue to be a mixed-use area for recreation, conservation and hunting.
“There has been shared use in this space for a long time,” Dean said. “It sounds like we’re not questioning the value of hunting. What I have heard is these amendments won’t impair the ability to hunt in a significant way.”
The new boundary, which is now a line drawn at roughly the low tide mark between two GPS coordinates, is actually closer than the original boundary, which fluctuated with the tide, making it difficult to enforce.
The boundary was redrawn with the help of Fish and Wildlife and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Both departments had complained in the past that the original boundary was difficult for them to enforce.
While there were suggestions of possibly putting buoys out as visual signs of the boundary, the commissioners said that should this new boundary still prove difficult to enforce, other solutions could be looked at in the future.
“Everything can be revisited,” said Kler. “If this doesn’t work I’m sure we’ll hear about it.”
The new changes go into affect in 30 days, on Dec. 6.