Pellets are flying and people are upset. For the first time, a duck blind has been installed in Little Hunting Creek and neighbors want it out. Three other permits have been granted for that area as well and neighbors want to know what they can do.
Legally, nothing, is the word from Mark Diluigi, game warden with Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. The duck blind that is installed near the home of Linda and Bradford Brown is legal. A man from Fredericksburg exercised his rights as a nonriparian owner after the riparian owner failed to exercise his rights.
Residents of Little Hunting Creek are quickly learning what riparian and nonriparian mean. A riparian owner resides on the banks of a natural course of water; they have the first right to purchase a permit for a duck blind. A nonriparian owner does not reside there, but has the right to purchase a permit if and when the riparian owner does not.
Since the Browns' neighbor did not purchase a permit for a duck blind before Aug. 31, the man from Fredericksburg took advantage of that opportunity before the deadline of Sept. 30. In this case, the blind has already been erected and is being used; the other three have been staked but not built on. Several residents suggested exercising their riparian rights and not installing blinds just to prevent others from doing so. Diluigi, however, said that if you purchase a duck blind license, not only is the owner obligated to install a duck blind, but they are legally obliged to hunt. While he’s never arrested somebody for not hunting, it is within his legal right to do so.
A letter from Brown to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland said: “I am a resident of Stratford Landing. My home is on Little Hunting Creek very near the duck blind which has recently been built next to the pumping station. I am terrified to go anywhere near my garden beds on the banks of Little Hunting Creek, and to use my paddle boat, both of which are in range of the duck blind.”
BROWN INVITED Hyland to a meeting at her home on Child’s Lane this week. In attendance was Jay Spiegel, attorney; Jim Davis, MVCCA Environment representative; Rick Edgerton, Stratford Landing Civic Association president; Mark Diluigi and several concerned neighbors. Hyland said that he had spoken to one of the three permit holders and thought there was a good chance that one would withdraw his permit. He had also spoken to the Fredericksburg man about the existing blind.
“The owner is not happy with the controversy and is willing to talk with the community,” Hyland said. “He is willing not to use the duck blind if you can find him another location.”
Therein lies the problem. It is believed that the reason for this recent spate of permits for Little Hunting Creek was caused when Fort Belvoir decided to exercise their riparian rights and purchased permits for 20 blinds. No longer able to purchase permits in that area, duck hunters are looking for other areas. So far, four of them have staked claim to Little Hunting Creek.
Hyland contacted Don Carr, director of Public Affairs, U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Belvoir, to see if there was a possibility of giving Little Hunting Creek permit holders access to one of Fort Belvoir’s duck blinds. As of this time, they are still waiting for an answer. Hyland is also trying to determine if the No Hunting ordinance that is mandated for that area applies to that area as well.
Hyland told Carr, “Belvoir’s purchase of duck blind permits has caused a ripple effect which is ending up having blinds where Little Hunting Creek hunting should be occurring. I need to find a place for him [holder of permit] to hunt, not in Little Hunting Creek.”
Neighbors are concerned because they feel that the blinds are too close to their homes. Several have found pellets in their yards, including that of Steve and Christy Meehan. The Meehans have agreed to gather the pellets as evidence to present to Hyland. While the relocation of blinds will solve the problem, it is only a temporary fix. The long-term solution is legislation. Jay Spiegel, who is representing the landowners, said that they will have to ask Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-44) and Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-36) to sponsor legislation prohibiting the installation of duck blinds in Little Hunting Creek. Until that time, owners will have to watch out for hunters in their backyards.