By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
A ban on trapping on public land on Grand Island doesn't have the support to pass the five-member Grand Island Town Board, Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said Monday, but he added a compromise is in the works.
Island residents Dave Reilly and Nicole Gerber brought forth a proposal to a new local law that sought to ban trapping on public land anywhere on Grand Island.
During a Town Board workshop meeting Monday, McMurray said there is not a proposed law, yet. He said he has talked with people on both sides of the issue, trappers as well as opponents, in addition to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
"After discussions with the board members, there was not the votes there to take action that would ban trapping on Grand Island," McMurray said. He said the board is amenable to a compromise on the issue to prohibit trapping in town parks.
Councilman Ray Billica said the town should address just trapping on town property, rather than the broader issues such as dealing with coyotes and rabid animals. Billica preferred a simple solution, or "a small edit," to add trapping to current law rather than to write a new law.
The board noted the difference between public land and town parkland. Billica also pointed out many people don't realize the town has a lot of property that is not officially designated as parkland.
McMurray said the board is on the same page in wanting to prevent "trapping in places where it is clearly not appropriate," but drafting a local law that is neither overly broad nor overly narrow, he said, would take the input of legal counsel. Councilman Michael Madigan said a solution may be as simple as listing the places on the Island where trapping is prohibited.
The Town Board is not on the same page as an advisory board, however. As Reilly pointed out during the meeting, the Conservation Advisory Board and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board both support the ban. At a Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting Jan. 25, the board passed a motion that said: "Due to the importance of public safety of preserving the rights of all public land users, the Grand Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Board strongly urges that all trapping on public land in the Town of Grand Island be banned."
The motion was signed by Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members Jason Masker (chairman), Alice Kozen, Angelo Grande, Neil Hoffman, Paul Leuchner and James Szakacs.
Reilly said the issue was one of public interest versus special interest, saying there was broad support for a ban on trapping on public land across the Island, and that the interest of 20,000 people outweigh the interests of a handful of trappers.
Reilly called the issue either about killing animals or about commercial enterprise, and "truly about making money on public land." Billica flatly said no.
"What I care about is when I go on a public land, I have a perception that public land is safe. If I go to a playground, I have a perception that playground is safe," he a said. The matter was one of safety for walkers and pets.
"That's my only issue," Billica said.
Councilman Chris Aronica said the board's plan is to address the concern of safety on trails.
"That's all that was originally brought to us," he said, "and I think this addresses that."
The board does not have another regular meeting this month. A public hearing on trapping will take place at 8 p.m. Monday, March 7. Another public hearing that night, on a possible "chicken law" amending the town code for the keeping of animals, is slated that night.