Who’s allowed to hunt in the Starke County Forest and who gets to make that decision were topics of discussion during last week’s County Park Board meeting. Forester Bruce Wakeland previously told board members that he typically rents the forest to a group of hunters each year over the Thanksgiving weekend. It’s to help control the deer population, but also to raise a few hundred dollars for the forest.
While Wakeland manages the forest, it’s owned by Starke County as one of its park facilities. Park board member Roger Chaffins believes that leaves it up to Wakeland to make those decisions. “It’s his determination to do that,” Chaffins said last week. “The county actually can’t say, ‘You can’t do that,’ because he’s the manager of it, and it was kind of written in the agreement when he gave it to the county, I think.”
Board member Debbie Mix added that Wakeland picks hunters based on his experience of who’s been responsible in the past.
But board member Chris Lawrence criticized the arrangement as a “good old boy system.” He suggested switching to an “unbiased” system, similar to the one used by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The issue was raised last week by board member Rosemary Rose. She said she heard from a few people who went to the forest, only to find it closed for hunting.