Sara Swanson

Disabled veterans to be allowed to hunt in the Leonard Preserve in effort to control deer population

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To visit the Leonard Preserve, turn off of Main Street onto Union Street next to Emanuel Church and follow it along the river out of the Village to the parking lot and preserve entrance.

To visit the Leonard Preserve, turn off of Main Street onto Union Street next to Emanuel Church and follow it along the river out of the Village to the parking lot and preserve entrance.

Near the end of August, Manchester area residents living near the Leonard Preserve received a letter informing them that for the first time, hunting would be allowed in the Preserve since it’s establishment in 2004, and that it will be both limited and for a good reason.

The Leonard Preserve which is the largest natural preserve owned by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission with 259 acres, is located just outside the Village, with it’s parking lot located on the western end of Union Street.

In 2009, the Commission began to monitor the deer impact on native plant communities in the preserve. Ecosystems within the preserve include rolling hills, woodlands, wetlands, and a 10-acre prairie remnant, which is home to some uncommon wildflowers and grassland nesting birds. All the data showed that the deer were causing significant damage.

In response, the Commission decided to partner with Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO) to open the Preserve up for selective hunting this fall to cull the herd and reduce damage to the plant communities. MiOFO is an organization dedicated to providing outdoor opportunities to the disabled community, including veterans. Associated with the Eisenhower Center and partnering with the DNR, the organization which frequently manages hunts in the Sharonville state game area, provides Action Track Chairs (powered, off-road wheelchairs) and a team of volunteers to help reintegrate disabled veterans and others with health challenges back into nature.

The hunting in the Leonard Preserve will happen only on specific dates and limited locations within the preserve and hunters will have to qualify and register to participate. Only the northern prairies of the preserve will be used for the hunt while the southern half will remain open during hunting for hiking, photography, wildlife viewing and more. The state requires hunting to occur at least 450’ away from structures, so the area selected is also well away from surrounding houses. The three hunts will occur October 13 – 16th, November 15th – 30th and Dec. 19th – Jan 1st.

Allison Krueger, Stewardship Manager for the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation commission stated that so far, the public response that she and MiOFO have received on the Leonard Preserve hunting has only been positive.  She continued, “I think many community members are dealing with the similar issues we have in the preserve, too many deer are eating too much.”  If you have questions, concerns, or want to voice support, please contact Krueger at kruegera@ewashtenaw.org or 734-971-6337×317.

If you are disabled veteran or know someone who qualifies and would like to register, contact Tom Jones, MiOFO coordinator at tjones@eisenhowercenter.com or 734-612-6677 for more information.

Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission will be holding a public meeting to discuss deer management at the Leonard Preserve on September 14th from 7pm to 8pm in the Village Room, lower level of the library, located at 912 City Road.

Editors note: this article originally included a map showing the area that would be open to hunting. We’ve removed it because the map is not finalized. The map we ran showed areas of the preserve as “hunting areas” that are actually too close to occupied structures to be safe for hunting. 

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