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Residents fear stray gunfire near river
However, county authorities have little authority over river bed
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It’s only a matter of time before someone is hit by a stray bullet while enjoying the Arkansas River bed south of Ellinwood, local resident Tom Komarek told the Barton County Commission Monday morning.
He is part of an archery club which has a target range in the area. Club members have seen first-hand damage done by rounds striking near their tree-shrouded facility tucked south of the Ark bridge.
“We want to make that a no-firearms zone,” Komarek said. He has spoken with Ellinwood City Manager Bob Peters who he said supports the idea.
He was wanting commissioners to meet with the Ellinwood City Council to find a solution. Komarek had met with commissioners earlier this year during a study session.
However, it is not that simple, said Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir. The Arkansas River, like the Kansas and Kaw rivers, are considered navigable waterways by the Federal government.
Reno County recently passed a resolution banning shooting from the river. “But, there is a fatal flaw in that Reno County resolution,” Bellendir said.
From high-water line to high-water line, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, counties and cities have no jurisdiction. “They are like public roads,” Bellendir said.
If someone can access the river bed, it is fair game for hunting, all-terrain vehicles and other recreational activities, the sheriff said. All counties and cities can do is control the access points that they own.
Furthermore, he said, there are supreme court rulings that keep the rivers open. Any farming or establishment of fences is prohibited.
The next step, said County Administrator Richard Boeckman, was for him to meet with Peters. Amid some confusion amongst Ellinwood city officials over who owns what in the bridge area, the two need to gather more information.
In the meantime, Bellendir said his deputies would step up patrols in the area and enforce what laws they can, such as driving under the influence and reckless driving.