Playground for the few? Island’s rural roots under assault | Special to the Journal

By Carter Whalen

Poachers won’t be tolerated at the south end?

I spoke with Paul McFarland two years ago and I understand no hunting is authorized there despite the fact that many DNR state holdings do allow for hunting in the land-use plan.

Two years prior to that conversation, the DNR office in Olympia gave me 100 percent confirmation that hunting was legal on that land. As Mr. McFarland later explained, this was a misinformed state employee I had spoken with.

Considering the fact that many of us were told that we could legally hunt on that state land, that doesn’t make the hunters who were there poachers. After hearing a shotgun, the author was presumptive in saying the gunshots could have come from their own property. I find it hard to believe that hikers or dog walkers had to “retreat” towards Griffin Bay once they heard a shotgun.

In my opinion, fall deer hunting doesn’t constitute a public safety concern. Deer hunters aren’t ruining sensitive and fragile ecosystems. Not with gut piles or drag marks. Hunting has been a part of our culture on this island since long before the miles of dog walking trails.

Considering the fact that we have two national parks, a state park, a county park, and many Land Bank holdings for dog walking and nature observation, I don’t believe deer hunters are the threat to humanity that some believe us to be.

At a time when our backyard landscape is being packaged and branded and sold in the interest of tourism, I offer some observations of my own. It didn’t take many trips to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket to see first-hand how much different island life truly is there.

I’ve always been proud of how “inclusive” our community is. This island has always been a melting pot in a sense, a place where a variety of people find their common ground. What you find in Martha’s Vineyard is an “exclusive” community with an unnatural and over-saturated culture of tourism.

Committee’s and action groups will “develop” more trails, bike turnouts, bus stops, roadside plaques, interpretive centers, scooter parking and a fall festival plan to bring more people in for the shoulder seasons. What was once a very tolerant and inclusive community has become an exclusive community where the Southern resident whales are smothered and the island is branded and packaged as a seasonal festival.

Hunting deer with a shotgun on 80 acres isn’t an unsafe situation. It’s a situation that bothers many people because they prefer a quiet 80 acres close to home to walk their dog without disturbance. This is an example of “exclusive” minded people who want the rural view absent the rural people.

Leaving our rural roots behind us, our community has evolved in the direction of film festivals and add campaigns. Our infrastructure is strained in the summer. Our roads are choked with bikes and scooters. The cost of commercial space in town is being driven up at an alarming rate.

And now, God forbid, someone hunts for a fall deer and a gut pile is discovered.

Why not hunt on the 12 acres I own on Mt. Dallas? Because the homeowners association has imposed their views on hunting and no hunting is allowed up here even on my own property.

Lastly I offer my sincere thank you to any and all who allow people to hunt on their land. For that consideration, I’m truly grateful.

— Editor’s note: Carter Whalen first moved to the island in 1977, and lives with wife Jennifer and daughters Kayla, Kai and Saylor. An archery hunter since age 14, he works in western Alaska as a state-licensed marine pilot, based in Dutch Harbor.