Visitors to Shollenberger Park were caught off guard last week by gunshots fired in the area.
It's duck hunting season, after all, but at least one witness said she was scared after it appeared that the hunters were pointing their guns inside the popular recreational area.
Alexandra, a Mill Valley resident who declined to give her last name, was out on a walk with her husband and two children on Thursday when they heard gunshots and then saw two young men wander out of the shrubs.
One of the men swore at Alexandra, then stripped down to his underwear and ran to retrieve a duck he had shot. The other pulled down his pants and urinated in the water, she said.
“We were just shocked, there were women and kids there…there was no respect for civility,” she said. “It’s also a public safety issue.”
Petaluma Police confirm receiving numerous calls about gunshots in the area, but say it’s unclear whether anyone was actually shooting into the park.
“There is open land around the marsh and hunting is allowed for people who have a hunting license,” explained Lt. Tim Lyons, a police spokesman. “The birds could have landed in the park and they could have gone in to retrieve them.”
Gerald Moore, a member of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and volunteer docent at Shollenberger, says the problem is not new. Ellis Creek, where the hunters were spotted, used to be county land and hunting was previously permitted there. But several years ago, the parcel was annexed by the city and incorporated into the park.
“We have Fish and Game put up ‘No Hunting’ signs, but they get ripped out because people don’t want to be caught red handed (if someone sees them hunting). But at the end of the day, it’s not safe to be shooting into a park full of people.“
Another issue is the marshy terrain that makes it hard to apprehend illegal hunters or those engaging in dangerous behavior. The Petaluma Police Department doesn’t have a boat it can use to patrol the river and the boat belonging to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is often tied up on other calls around the county, Moore said.
Have you seen hunters around Shollenberger Park? Can the city or county do more to make sure no one is hurt by random gunfire?