Is Duck hunting off the Benicia residential shoreline really a good idea?By C. Bennett, by email
For those of you who haven’t yet been woken at dawn by the sound of gunshots, for the second season in a row a group of local resident duck hunters have been hunting off the Benicia shoreline & State Park waters. Our beautiful straits that used to be filled with peaceful water recreation, have recently been overshadowed by duck hunters from late October to late January. Our usual mixture of kayakers, paddleboarders, windsurfers & hang gliders have receded. Who can blame them? Sharing the waterways with men shooting guns is a kill joy, not to mention unsafe.
It turns out it is technically legal. For the past 40+ years duck hunters have known that hunting was inappropriate so close to a residential community, so they hunted in nearby appropriate venues including Grizzly Island, Suisun Marsh, Mare Island & along the shores of San Pablo Bay & non-residential sections of the Napa River (all quite close by). Hunters respected the residential shoreline of Benicia & the State Park waters as off-limits to hunting. But a new generation of local hunters think differently, despite the polite request of their neighbors to hunt elsewhere. Their response is, “It’s legal. We can hunt here if we want to.” So they persist- 2-3 days a week, starting usually at sunrise, sometimes staying out on the water til noon, (or all day) returning at sunset.
Dozens of calls to the Fish & Wildlife Dept have failed to impart any change. Benicia police say, “It’s out of our jurisdiction.” Residents have consulted the mayor, the city attorney, the police chief, and the city manager. Apparently, as long as it is technically legal, there is nothing the city of Benicia, or its residents can do to stop it. Casual hikers along the SF Bay Trail, families & children playing or picnicking in the waterfront parks, bicyclists on the State Park pathways, & people whose houses look out upon the straits are unwittingly exposed to the jolting harshness of gunfire, & a visual of ducks being shot from the skies. On the west side of town it wakes and alarms children, sends dogs into a panic, and triggers those with PTSD. It is an intolerable affront to the peaceful enjoyment of our lives. Without some type of action to stop this, it may well grow to more & more hunters, eventually altering the personality & character of our town. It will impact the type of tourists we attract, & the type of businesses that may or may not prosper. It will quite likely change the very nature of our town. To most nature lovers, being viscerally exposed to duck hunting along the Benicia shoreline is not consistent with our motto
“It’s a Great Day by the Bay”.
All this said, ‘duck hunting’ itself is not the problem. Duck hunting off of the Benicia shoreline & the State Park waters is the problem. I’m calling upon all of our conscientious duck hunters in this town to speak to these younger duck hunters. Share with them your integrity, your knowledge of right from wrong, & help them understand the give & take of being part of a larger community. So far diplomacy has failed. We must therefore be prepared to designate the waters along the Benicia shoreline & the State Park off-limits to hunting. We need to establish a legal basis to return to the common sense and courtesy that prevailed for much of the past four decades. To accomplish this will require us to combine our individual voices, to unify for a common cause, & be prepared to take the necessary steps to restore & protect the peaceful enjoyment of this beautiful oasis we call Benicia.