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Ask The Splash
11/7/2012 9:46:30 AM

Editor's note: An occasional feature of the opinion page, "Ask The Splash" takes questions from readers and checks in with appropriate leaders to find answers. Questions may be submitted to editor@libertylakesplash.com.

Hunting in city alarms trail users
As hunting season comes into full swing, as I citizen of Liberty Lake, I have a question: Is hunting and random discharging of firearms permitted within the boundaries of the city of Liberty Lake?

I mention this because last year while walking the Centennial Trail along the open fields north of Mission Avenue, there were hunters visible from the trail shooting in the direction of the Centennial Trail.

I called the Liberty Lake Police Department expressing concern for my safety. According to the LLPD investigation, I was told it was OK for them to be hunting and discharging firearms in the direction of the Centennial Trail.

I'm curious: How's a dog-walker or anyone else using public access along the Spokane River (or anywhere else in Liberty Lake) supposed to know where it's safe to walk and where it's OK to hunt or discharge firearms?

How can the public be assured those guns are not aimed at them or that a violent felony is not being committed?

I tried to find the regulations in the city of Liberty Lake code allowing random discharging of firearms. I could not find any.

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Please publish the policy of the city concerning shooting guns and hunting within the city limits, along with a clearly defined map of where firearm discharge and hunting is allowed, so the rest of us can avoid these areas.

                                                                                                            Dale Jones 
                                                                                                            Liberty Lake

Answer
Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus said hunting is indeed not allowed within the boundaries of the city of Liberty Lake. However, the case in question does represent an exception where hunting was permitted within city limits and may be permitted again in the future.

Some of the fields bordered by the Centennial Trail to the north and Mission Avenue to the south on the north side of Liberty Lake are currently leased by an Inland Northwest family to grow a crop of winter wheat. This time of year, Asmus explained,  geese are known to come in by the dozens and devastate the winter wheat crop.

When this happens, the family receives a special permit from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to hunt the geese. Asmus said the permit includes guidelines as to when the hunting can take place, such as times of year and days of the week.

"They are authorized for the purpose of protecting their livelihood," he said. "It's to discourage the geese from congregating. They're not out there hunting for sport."

Asmus said the family gives further notice to the police department, just as it does to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to deal with geese on property similarly farmed on the north side of the Spokane River. The ultimate permission, however, is established through the statewide department.

As to the question of a public danger, Asmus said the hunters are asked to shoot away from the direction of the Centennial Trail. He said that's just what they have been doing whenever police have responded to check on them in the past. He said when LLPD officers receive calls about the hunting, they always make sure the hunters are actually the family who has received the proper permissions to be on the land, and that they are carrying the proper permits with them.

He said the hunters use birdshot so the ammunition is not carrying a great distance, and that he is not concerned that there is a danger to the public using the Centennial Trail while the hunters are on the land. 

                                                                                                            Josh Johnson
                                                                                                            Splash Editor

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