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Savage River State Forest - Mt. Aetna Tract
Hunting Safety Zone Update - February 28, 2007
On February 27, 2007 DNR managers met with constituents to address issues regarding the Mt. Aetna Tract/Savage River Lodge brought to the agency’s attention during an original meeting held at the Grantsville Public Library on Nov. 20, 2006.
Four major areas of public concern were outlined during the November meeting. The following summary explains those concerns and also indicates the steps that have been taken to assure their resolution.
- The primary issue raised at the meeting was opposition to the “No Hunting, No (Loaded) Weapons” signs posted along Mt. Aetna Road and the Green Trail.
DNR’s original reason for posting the signs centered on public safety concerns. DNR agreed to conduct a re-evaluation of the need for signs by Feb. 2007.
Based on the number and nature of law enforcement complaints that occurred on the tract during the 2006 rifle and muzzleloader hunting seasons, DNR agreed to remove the signs along Mt. Aetna Road and the Green Trail. However, the Department will maintain a 150-yard safety zone around all occupied structures on the Savage River Lodge property, where standard safety zone signage will be posted.
A map showing the approximate location of this safety zone is attached.
- The “no parking” signs posted by the Savage River Lodge along Mt. Aetna Road were identified as a major public concern.
The “no parking” signs posted by Savage River Lodge along Mt. Aetna Road have been removed. However, DNR will be placing State “no parking” signs along the road in the turn-out areas to prevent parking in those locations.
While parking along the road is not legally prohibited, it would be extremely difficult to park legally along this road. Due the narrow width of the road, a vehicle would need to be parked completely off the road to avoid blocking traffic.
- Concerns about the gates on the road and the “limited access road” signs were also addressed.
DNR and the Savage River Lodge have a shared legal right-of-way (ROW) from Old Frostburg Road to the Savage River Lodge property line. As a State agency administering public lands, DNR's ROW is shared by the public and is available for public use.
Therefore, the “limited access” signs have been removed, and DNR will instruct Savage River Lodge to remove the gate placed across the road on state property.
The gate on private land will remain in place and will be used to open and close the road.
Public access to the road will be adjusted seasonally, based on the public’s need for access to the Mt. Aetna tract for legitimate recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, etc. DNR will determine gate openings and closures based on what is best for the tract. Due to the shared ROW legal status of the road, these determinations will be made in consultation with Savage River Lodge.
- The public requested that DNR consider installing a new parking lot at the top of the hill to improve access to the Mt. Aetna tract and provide a turn-around area.
DNR has conducted an inter-disciplinary team review of this request. A final decision on whether or not to install an additional parking area on the tract is pending.
Click here for December 1, 2006 Update
Background Information on the Enhanced Hunting Safety Zone
- In January 2006, DNR received a written complaint expressing concerns for visitor safety on Mt. Aetna tract and requested the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to take appropriate action to ensure the public’s safety. The Mt. Aetna tract surrounds the Savage River Lodge, a commercial business frequented by outdoor recreation enthusiasts in the middle of an extremely popular hunting area.
- Upon review of the complaints, DNR civilian and law enforcement staff determined the public safety concerns had merit, enough so that the agency temporarily expanded the safety zone to include the entrance road and the Green Trail. (Safety zones are normally 150 yards around occupied dwellings). DNR expanded the safety zone to minimize the likelihood that a citizen could be accidentally hurt. The Department took this action pursuant to COMAR 08.07.01.03 B, which gives the Department authority to regulate specific areas of hunting.
- Once the decision was made, new safety zones signs were posted in August in time for the busy fall hunting season. Unfortunately, however in its quest to act urgently, the agency did not conduct the extensive public outreach efforts it prefers to conduct under such circumstances. Complicating matters further, the signs that were posted incorrectly stated that all weapons are prohibited from the safety zone, when, in fact only loaded weapons are prohibited.
- DNR officials have since communicated to the local hunters the safety concerns that prompted placement of the new safety zone signs, and advised that the safety zone was a provisional measure instituted to alleviate these concerns. An initial meeting was held with concerned hunters in October to better understand their concerns and questions, and a second meeting was held in November to provide answers and clarifications to those issues. The Izaak Walton League of America and the Garrett County of Chamber of Commerce have expressed their support of the current expanded safety zone.
- DNR has also advised the local hunters that the continued implementation of the new safety zone would be evaluated over the remainder of 2006 and early 2007, and committed to a follow-up meeting in February 2007 to further discuss the safety concerns on the tract. The Department expects to make a formal safety policy decision in early 2007 once meetings have been held with all interested parties.
February 28, 2007
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 18,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov