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Onaway bans bows in city limits

November 26, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ONAWAY - Archers will be forbidden from practicing within the Onaway city limits after commissioners voted to ban their use, despite the city planning commission's request to do otherwise.

Starting 22 days from today, bow and crossbow owners can no longer use them within Onaway's city limits, City Manager Joe Hefele said. City commissioners approved the new ordinance by a vote of 4-0, with Mayor Gary Wregglesworth absent from their Nov. 19 meeting.

The ordinance bans the use of bows, long bows and cross bows, as well as slingshots and similar devices. Violators can be charged with a municipal civil infraction and would face a maximum fine of $500.

Hefele said he understood both sides of the argument; some archers who live in city limits use their property as a practice range.

"There are pretty experienced bow hunters in town who do it as safely as it can be done, and it's pretty convenient to be able to do it safely in your yard," he said.

However, commissioners opted for the ban because of safety concerns, and because of the difficulty in creating an ordinance to enforce responsible firing, Hefele said. Had commissioners opted to restrict bow use, one way would have been to forbid shooting arrows or bolts within a certain distance from neighboring property, to require certain backstops, or both. Such setbacks would have likely prevented most city lot owners from using their land anyway, and wouldn't account for inexperienced or careless archers.

Commissioner Chuck Abshagen made the motion to adopt the ordinance. He believes banning bow and crossbow use was the right thing to do despite the city planning commission's 4-1 vote to regulate but allow it.

"I just don't think it's something we want in our neighborhoods, and if I don't want it in my neighborhood I can't believe other people would want it," he said.

Once the law takes effect, bow and crossbow users will have to practice elsewhere, Abshagen said.

Hunters "don't do it in the city limits when they sight rifles in," he said. "To me, it's one and the same."

Bernie Schmeltzer, a commissioner who presided over the meeting as deputy mayor, agreed.

"We just looked at the fact at, where are you going to draw the line," he said. "We have a few areas in the city that are wider areas, out in what they call Frenchtown, but my understanding, and even the commission's, is the fact that a bow itself could (reach) 50, 60, 70 yards or more with an arrow."

While Hefele said he can recall no serious injuries from bow-related accidents, city commissioners heard complaints about bow use about 15 years ago. After city commissioners first considered the ordinance during their Nov. 7 meeting, he recalled a past incident where a stray arrow was discovered lodged in a local church roof. Separately, children had discovered another arrow that had landed in a backyard.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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