Town urges firearms hunting be delayed a month

Thu, 11/05/2020 - 5:00pm
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Due to the numbers of visitors Block Island continues to see during the 2020 shoulder season, as well as a rise in Covid-19 cases not only in Rhode Island but in states where hunters may travel from, the Block Island Town Council and the Town Manager want to put the brakes on the firearms hunting season until Dec. 1. Shotgun and muzzle-loading season officially began on Monday, Nov. 2.

The council and Dr. Tom Warcup of the Medical Center are also concerned that day trippers and new residents on the island may not be aware that there is hunting on Block Island, which also factored into the decision to try to discourage firearms hunting. Archery hunting, however, is continuing. (See page 3 for the hunting season calendar.)

The council, Warcup and Town Manager Maryanne Crawford shared their concerns at the Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 2.

With hunting delayed at the Block Island Wildlife Refuge, and hunting not taking place at Rodman’s Hollow and Black Rock until January, the only route to hunt on Block Island is to get permission from a landowner and a double sign-off from Police Chief Vin Carlone.

Crawford said on Tuesday, Nov. 3 that she, in concert with the council, is “requesting hunters not to come to Block Island to hunt” until Dec. 1.

The council issued its own statement on hunting on Tuesday, Nov. 3:

“The New Shoreham Town Council met Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 and discussed hunting season in the context of the Covid19 pandemic. It has been brought to the Council’s attention that there are more people living on Block Island this year than in recent years and many community members are spending more time recreating outdoors this fall. Recently, the town made a formal request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife asking to delay the start of firearms season at Sandy Point and Grove Point until Dec. 1, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agreed to honor our request in a recent release formally announcing the delay. The Town Council is requesting all private landowners to delay firearms deer hunting on their property until Dec. 1.”

Crawford noted that the Department of Environmental Management suggested “we work with the private property owners, the same way that was done with USFW” for hunting. She added that the state issues 31 non-Rhode Island resident permits to hunt on Block Island.

Crawford said 18 of those permits have been issued as of Monday, Nov. 2.

Councilor Martha Ball wanted to call a halt to the hunting season altogether.

“Rhode Island numbers are off the chart today. Rhode Island is bad and I don’t understand why we can’t shut this down because of the issues of Covid-19… If you shut it down, you shut it down for everyone,” said Ball.

Town Solicitor Kathy Merolla jumped on the call, and stated that Chief Carlone can question and intervene with hunters “at his discretion, as long as there is a justifiable reason,” said Merolla. (Carlone was on vacation the week of these discussions.)

Block Island Medical Center Director Dr. Tom Warcup also shared his concern if hunters come to “the island and interact with the community.” Warcup said he understood “the level of anxiousness,” but added that if the chief used his discretion and reacted to the data about the rate of infections in Rhode Island and neighboring states, “I think we will be fine.” said Warcup.

“It sounds like our best and most effective tool would be checking in with the Chief [Vin Carlone],” said First Warden Ken Lacoste.

Wear your mask

Lacoste also announced there had been some concern about the lack of mask wearing among the crews working in Old Harbor on both the dredging project and the cable reburial project. Crawford said she had spoken with Ørsted Project Manager Bryan Wilson after noticing some cable reburial project workers not wearing masks. 

“I had the opportunity to speak with Bryan Wilson on Saturday afternoon, and we discussed some issues with masks. I had been in town at the Post Office and noticed that there were two workers walking around with no masks. I asked Bryan to reemphasize to the workers that masks need to be worn,” said Crawford. She said that Wilson would speak to the workers.

“I think based on my conversation with him on Saturday we will see an improvement in that area,” said Crawford.

Dr. Warcup chimed in on the topic, adding he had also spoken with Wilson on congregation issues. Warcup also encouraged residents to continue practicing mask wearing and social distancing protocols as the holidays loom ahead.

“Covid-19 spikes in Rhode Island are coming from small gatherings and parties with no mask wearing, which is leading to other outbreaks. Stay vigilant with masks,” said Warcup. “We understand everyone is tired of it.”

Over the weekend, Councilor Sven Risom and Crawford took a tour around the island and noticed “many people that didn’t have masks on,” said Risom.

“All of us are tired, and we need proactive reminders. I do think we need to remind people that it’s just as bad as it was in March,” said Risom.

“If anything is going to stick around for a long time, it is the mask wearing. That’s the reality of where things are going,” said Councilor Chris Willi.

Second Warden André Boudreau asked Crawford if Chief Carlone will be enforcing the Covid-19 ordinances through the winter season.

“I would like a definitive answer if we are going to have enforcement support,” said Boudreau.

“I will see to it that it is enforced,” said Crawford.

“I would hope that everyone that is here would take this a little more seriously. We also need personal responsibility — people can take responsibility for themselves and their community. It’s not one or the other,” added Ball.

“Wash your hands, keep distance, and wear masks,” said Risom.

Appointment to School Committee

Lacoste announced the council had received two applications for the council-appointed seat to the Block Island School Committee: island residents Pam Austen and Charles Weber. 

Weber sent the following letter to the council dated late October:

“My name is Charles Weber, and I would like to be considered for the School Committee seat that was recently vacated by Kara Stinnett. I have been an island resident for over twenty years. I have three children currently in the school system. I feel that more people of my ‘generation’ need to become more involved in the decisions being made for our children now and for the future. Thank you for your consideration.”

Ball made a motion to appoint Weber to the unexpired term of Stinnett. The motion was passed 4 to 0, with Risom recused.

The following boards and committees have openings: Board of Assessment Review for a three-year position, and an opening on the Deer Task Force. DTF Chair Dora Burak recently resigned.

The following seats on various boards and committees have been filled: Steve McQueeny for the Commission on Motor Vehicles for Hire; Kevin Sheridan and Tom Walsh for the Deer Task Force; Roberta Closter for the Recreation Board; and Judy Fucci for the Senior Advisory Committee.