By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Before opening a public hearing on a proposed trapping law, Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said his goal was to have a dialogue "so that we can really have a conversation. I believe the best ideas come from conversation and dialogue."
He got more than two hours worth of dialogue from supporters and opponents of trapping in at the public hearing Monday.
McMurray said before the hearing at Town Hall that no vote would take place that night, and that the council members would take into consideration all comments from the public, "and we hope to get to a place where we still continue to balance the interest of the town."
Opponents of trapping picketed at Town Hall before the meeting, some carrying anti-trapping statements.
McMurray said the law would stop trapping of all sorts on town-owned property with the exception of property zoned open space.
Nicole Gerber spoke first at the public hearing, saying, "This issue has always been about what the public wants for its local community and about what is right for the people and animals of Grand Island. The fact that it was our dog that was almost injured by stepping onto a concealed leg-hold trap set on an Island paper street, Alt Boulevard, within three feet of our property line was alarming and frightening to us and this is why we brought this safety issue to our town government."
Gerber said while she was grateful the town moved to enact a law, she said the law is selective legislation that parceled out safety, and that it does not protect all of the Island.
Councilman Ray Billica said the board is concerned with pets and wildlife, but said the law "addresses one thing and one thing only that we need to focus on tonight. ... The issue is do we believe as a community trapping should be allowed on public land that people have an expectation to be safe on, or should it be allowed on public land."
For speakers, the law did not go far enough, to varying degrees, with some advocating for banning trapping at all.
Bryce Shipman, whose son is an Island trapper, said his son has the same rights to use public land as all the other Islanders and called the picket signs and Gerber "misleading to the point." Shipman said the law relates to land "that we all can use and we all have to respect."