Victory at Sally's Pond
RENAMED "HOPE'S POND"
Commentary by Anne Muller
The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, NY Coalition
to Protect Canada Geese, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, PAAC, and
Wildlife Watch have won! Sally's Pond is off limits to hunting for the
late season Canada goose hunt and possibly forever!
Each hunting season since the fall of 1994, activists have been assembling
before sunrise along Ringwood Ave. in front of Ringwood State Park in
NJ. As soon as the earliest light allowed, the sign HUNT IN PROGRESS,
PARK CLOSED was visible. Rangers lined up along the entrance and along
the stone wall dividing park property from the public roads they didnt
control. Official vehicles blocked the entrance, and hunters in camouflage
hid in the bushes and behind trees surrounding the pond. As usual, we
were there at 5:45 a.m., but this time there were no cars, no rangers
and no sign. Shooting could officially start at 6:50 (30 minutes before
sunrise). Looking for a ranger, we entered the park that we and NJ taxpayers
had been kept out of since the horror started 4 years before. We went
to the old brick building with its arched doors, fountains and formal
gardens, vestiges of a time when rich men ruled unchallenged, passed
laws to legitimize their activities, and developed euphemisms to gain
public acceptance. We still live with their legacy. The property was
a gift to the state of NJ with its streams, lakes and its showcase body
of water, Sally's Pond.
"No ones there," we reported back to the folks still outside
the park who were keeping an eye out for incoming flocks of geese.
Our relatively brief history with the pond flashed before us:
The first season hunters wounded and killed geese in front of us. Gregg
was maced when he kicked down the barricade to the park when the rangers
refused to open the park to the public at the designated hour.
The second season hunters shot at us, exercising their legal right to
shoot directly at a person who is more than 200 feet away if shooting
over a body of water. The pellets bounced off our hair and clothing.
The rangers looked the other way.
The third season a ranger flushed resting geese into hunters guns the
last minute of the hunt. Up to that time no geese had been shot. Three
geese were then killed. The rangers denied it was intentional.
The next season hunters came to the wall and shot across a public road,
the rangers denied it happened.
The next season was so bitter cold that the geese didn't come at all.
They extended the hunt until 10 a.m. to keep us in 11 degrees weather
an extra hour.
Last season we ridiculed hunters who crouched by the wall with 20 decoys.
Using sirens, we turned the real geese back.
Yesterday we arrived to find that we were victorious! As we stood almost
in disbelief, occupying our newly won territory, I could see two benches
that I had forgotten were there. They couldnt be seen from outside the
park. The day before the first hunt in September, 1994, Celia and I had
approached a family sitting on the benches. Did they know that the geese
would be blasted to death the next day? They were shocked and enraged.
They did a video interview with us and were eloquent. They said they
would write letters. Ringwood State Park told the media that the public
was demanding a reduction of the goose population.
Now, at 7:30 a.m., satisfied that there was no hunt, we prepared to
leave. A ranger pulled up we recognized him, he had been one of the worst. "You
should have called to save yourselves a trip, theres no hunting here." We
had called and were told that yes indeed there would be hunting. "No
hunting today or forever?" I asked. "For the season," he
said, "No geese."
"I thought they had to have the hunt to bring down the overpopulation," Melanie
Why did we choose Sally's Pond? Sallys pond was visible from a public
road that did not belong to the park. It was a dramatic spot in that
you could see the pond, the geese, the hunters, the rangers, the activists
we came together visually in a compact little area. The media would like
The first two seasons reporters and a TV crew came for the spectacle,
but the coverage was biased in favor of the parks need to reduce the
number of geese. Then, the reporters stopped coming. They didnt report
on the v-formations of geese that turned around in mid-air away from
hunters guns as we sounded our sirens and screamed on the top of our
lungs. So, this time I didnt bother to send out a press release. We went
because we could save lives. We were there solely for the geese and not
Sally's Pond is now off-limits to hunting! The geese can rest there
safely. The papers wouldnt have done it justice. "NOTHING GOING
ON AT SALLY'S POND" wouldnt make headlines. But the fact that there
is no hunting after 4 years of hunting is most significant.
I thought back to Hope. Found wounded after the first hunt in 1994,
Hope was rescued from the hunter to whom she "belonged" by
law. She died after three weeks of veterinary care, nursing, and prayer
for her survival. Hopes eternal flame, which Ann put by her little grave
in a secret location, has burned through many seasons and four years
in us all. Hope has won back her pond. It is now Hope's Pond.
If not Hope's offspring or siblings, then at least her species can go
to her pond during this beautiful, crisp winter. Early in the morning
as the sun is rising, the geese can settle on the water and find the
hospitality that a pond should offer a goose after a long night of flying.
If Hope's Pond remains off limits to hunting, we will choose another
location where we can be effective. Hope's Pond will become a symbolic
omen of wildlife peace rather than a despairing reality. We stay mindful
of the fact that wildlife is facing a waning minority's brutality protected
by outworn laws. We will win over and over again as the struggle for
our wildlife continues on the ground, in the courts, and soon the legislature.
To quote the letter that Ann Ilqiw wrote which was on the cover of our
first C.A.S.H. Courier:
Hope alive united us,
Hope dead galvanizes us
After years of turning off my feelings to cope with those early mornings,
tears flow. Its good to feel again, I too had died.
Thank you to (alphabetical order by first name):
And to everyone who came in the past to help make it happen!
A special "thank you" to Adam Weissman who went to Ringwood
every morning during the first late season hunt.
Thank you also to Angie Metler of NJARA who identified Sally's Pond
as a strategic location.
Feb 9, 2003