A sign designating parking for archery hunters at a state...

A sign designating parking for archery hunters at a state protected area off of Meadows Road in Kings Park on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 has drawn the ire of nearby residents who like to use the recreational trail that runs through the park. Neighbors and members of the Kings Park Civic Association, who are concerned about their safety, are upset that the state has opened the park up to archery hunters. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

We applauded when the state Department of Environmental Conservation built and opened an accessible hiking trail in Kings Park. People with disabilities have precious few such opportunities to enjoy nature on Long Island. But the DEC was wrong to follow that with a decision to allow bow hunters to shoot deer in the woods that surround that trail.

Since opening in August, the trail has been popular as well with parents pushing strollers and children on tricycles. Other parts of the 70-acre area are used as a shortcut by teens walking to Kings Park High School. Now the DEC is compromising its success.

Let's be clear: We're not opposed to deer hunting or bow hunters who undergo safety training. The reduction in distance from occupied dwellings from 500 feet to 150 feet makes us a little squeamish but the DEC says no one has been shot by a bow hunter on its lands since 1970.

But we also know that mistakes happen. And that part of the point of venturing out into nature, even the modest quarter-mile trail in Kings Park, is to lose yourself in its beauty and serenity -- not to worry about someone in those woods with a compound bow.

Only two bow hunters at a time are allowed in an area that might have but a handful of deer, in a season only three months long. The fight that has emerged seems to be more about the principle of access than genuine opportunity.

Public lands often must be managed for multiple uses. This trail was proposed partly to help stop illegal ATV and dirt-bike use in the woods. But there are 10 other places on Long Island, many of them larger with plentiful deer, where bow hunters can hunt, and far fewer places where disabled people can enjoy nature in peace. Let's let them.


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