CORRALITOS — Santa Cruz County supervisors have created a "no shoot zone" in a rural southern area, effectively banning the use of guns on a large swath of private property in the area of upper Eureka Canyon Road, Dove Lane and Highland Way.
Supervisor Ellen Pirie led the charge to prohibit the discharge of firearms after a group of Corralitos residents approached her in September with complaints of feeling unsafe in their homes and being subjected to "loud explosions" sometimes lasting several hours.
Supervisors voted 4-1 after a public hearing Tuesday, which included a number of Corralitos residents against the no-shoot ban.
Supervisor Greg Caput was the lone dissenter, saying the proposal felt rushed and unnecessary because of existing laws surrounding gun use on the books.
The new ban impacts 109 properties.
"I think a fundamental part of having a home is to be able to feel safe and enjoy it," Pirie said. "Not necessarily in complete quiet but certainly not with gunfire on a regular basis."
Opponents of the ban say property owners should be able to shoot wild pigs that threaten to destroy their land, as well as use gunfire to scare away crows and other critters. Some said they simply want to practice target shooting.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office reviewed Pirie's proposal for establishing the no-shoot zone and opted to take a neutral position.
The use of firearms is already prohibited on state property, including the nearby Forest of Nisene Mark State Park, and no-shoot zones exist in many areas of the county, such as the San Lorenzo Valley.
Harry Winand is among the 22 or so Eureka Canyon Road residents who signed the petition asking county leaders to halt gun use in the area.
Petition signers say they often hear gunfire coming from the bottom of upper Highland Way and Dove Lane, including at night when gun use is prohibited.
Winand, a father of three who lives on about one acre, says he frequently hears gunfire, though he doesn't know where it comes from specifically.
The issue for him comes down to safety for his family.
"My concern is bullets straying off people's property and hitting people," Winand said. "I'm not opposed to hunting or owning a gun, but just shooting whenever you want in a residential area and at night is not a good thing."
Longtime Eureka Canyon resident Jon Clark, who enjoys occasional target practice, said the problem is not with property owners shooting guns legally.
Rather, he says, illegal shooting takes place inside Nisene Marks and by outsiders who pull off Eureka Canyon Road and trespass on private property to shoot.
"It's an issue of enforcement. There's not enough enforcement," Clark said. "We do not currently have, nor have we had any problem with our neighbors shooting or causing problems related to shooting on their properties."
Dan Dwyer, who owns 54 acres in Eureka Canyon, criticized supervisors for not being more thoughtful when crafting the ordinance.
"This is blown out of proportion," Dwyer said. "There's a real problem with pigs tearing up the land. Too bad for the people who actually need to use their rifles."
Supervisor Caput said it felt like the ordinance was rushed to passage, and he believes enforcement by sheriff's deputies would be difficult.
"First of all, they couldn't identify where the problem was coming from," Caput said. "I certainly don't want people in danger in their own homes. But to just make a sweeping decision to say no shooting and say that solves the problem, I don't think solves the problem."
Pirie said the ban was based on residents' complaints, not an official count of illegal incidents.
"There's no way to do that but listen to the people who live there," she said. "The stories from residents were appalling."
The no-shoot zone will be discussed again at the board's Dec. 4 meeting.