Guns along the Naugatuck – Riverside residents feel they’re under fire

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Neighbors raise concerns over hunting along the Naugatuck

NAUGATUCK — During hunting season, residents of the riverside Bristol Terrace neighborhood say their days begin at 6 a.m. with anxiety.

“We wake up hearing gunshots,” said Sondra Harman of 132 Radnor Ave, who is secretary of the Naugatuck River Revival Group.

People in the neighborhood, which consists of about 75 houses near the Waterbury line, have noticed three different hunters shooting waterfowl from the banks of the river. They said do not know who the hunters are or if they are local.

The hunters park along Platts Mill Road and shoot from the trail that the group maintains for people to visit the river. Neighbors have noticed the hunters along a quarter-mile section of the river that includes a swing children use.

Kayaks and canoes from a nearby launch pad float through that section and people walk their dogs and jog on the banks, Harman said. The Metro-North commuter train runs several times a day down tracks on the far end of the river, toward which the hunters shoot.

Members of the river group, having worked for years to keep the Naugatuck clean and recreationally accessible, said the hunters are endangering human safety and killing animals that are just beginning to return to the long-polluted river.

“The original intention was to bring people to the river to observe the wonderful variety of wildlife and wonder at one of America’s greatest comeback stories,” group President Kevin Zak wrote in an e-mail. “These are unintended consequences.”

Group members said they have no problem with hunting in general, but they do not want to see it along that stretch of the river.

“There’s just too many people around here,” Harman said. “Someone’s going to get hurt. There’s plenty of places to hunt where people are nowhere around.”

Group members explained the situation to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month, eliciting concern.

“We’ve drawn people into a shooting gallery,” Deputy Mayor Tamath K. Rossi said.

The hunters appear to be on borough land, Mayor Robert A. Mezzo said, although there are several privately owned parcels along the river. Borough attorney Edward G. Fitzpatrick is investigating what, if anything, the borough can legally do about the hunters, given that the state Department of Environmental Protection has its own safety regulations.

“We’ve been telling people for years to come back to the river, and we will continue to sound that message, but that will undoubtedly ensure that someone is safe,” Mezzo said. “We don’t have anything to affirmatively state as a course of action.”