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Front Page » April 29, 2003 » Local News » County accepts input on gun range project
Published 4,112 days ago

County accepts input on gun range project


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter


Carbon County Airport manager Mark Francis points toward runway 32 and the proposed site of an outdoor gun range. Francis explains that the proposed shooting range could interfere with flight paths of aircraft approaching the facility. Runway 32 has the highest use of any at the county airport, indicated Francis. The situation is primarily due to fact that the prevailing winds come from the northwest at the time of day the majority of the aircraft use the facility for takeoffs and landings.

Several months ago, Carbon officials were looking at spending a grant for $750,000 and a funding match from county government to construct an indoor gun range, probably near the fairgrounds.

But after a study by a couple of committees, a trip by one of the county commissioners and two citizens to see a number of shooting ranges in Florida, it appears the plans may change.

"This is a meeting to get your input," explained Commissioner Steve Burge to a group of interested parties at the county courthouse last Wednesday. "I have developed my own ideas after spending all that time looking at other ranges, but I am open to suggestions and ideas you may have. This is for the public and we want the ideas of the public to be reflected in the actual facility."

The room was filled, mostly with firearm advocates who belong to various clubs and groups.

As Burge explained, he realized on the trip he took to Florida how many kinds of shooting events there are and how popular it was.

"As most of you know, I grew up shooting because of my dad," said Burge. "But I didn't realize that there are over 1000 kinds of shooting sports and that shooting is the third most popular sport in the world."

While many organizations were represented at the meeting, the basic issue boiled down to the fact that two groups had done studies on separate venues: an indoor gun range and an outdoor shooting facility.

It was decided the outdoor venue people would present their plan first. By the time the group was finished, most attendees at the meeting seemed to be in agreement that the outdoor venue would be the best place to start.

"We all got together and, somehow, they elected me chairman of this group," stated Don Burge, who made the presentation for the outdoor venue. "Now notice that these pieces of paper on the map are only glued on lightly so we can move them. That's because nothing is fixed. We need this group and others input to put this range together right."

The group's map showed an outdoor shooting range located southeast of the Carbon County Airport.

The proposed outdoor range would require purchasing property or entering into a long-term lease agreement with the United States Bureau of Land Management.

The committee studying the site near the airport and possible locations for different shooting venues involved almost 50 individuals.

The panel supporting the outdoor range proposal was divided into several subcommittees. The subcommitteesincluded people representing various shooting disciplines.

The initial planning on the site involves two sections of land, which translates to more than 1,200 acres that would be set aside for 12 different shooting sports.

The proposal would also include parking space, a recreational vehicle and picnic area as well as a possible clubhouse building.

The proposed project would include 12 different venues:

•A 1,000 yard rifle range.

•A muzzleloader and black powder cartridge shooting area.

•Cowboy and law enforcement pistol ranges.

•A1,000 yard rifle silhouette range.

•A small bare rifle shooting area.

•Olympic and 3-D archery ranges.

•A shotgun trap and field shooting area.

•A shotgun sporting range.

•A generic public range.

According to people attending the meetings, some of the venues arein the planning stages. But the National Rifle Association has expressed interest in possible regional and national meets being staged in the Carbon County area if the facility is built. Hosting the events could mean thousands of visitors and competitors coming to the county.

Once the map and the information on the outdoor shooting range were presented, a number of questions were raised by citizens in attendance at the gathering.

"The experience we had in Florida shows that the outdoor range is probably the best idea at this time for Carbon County," stated Commissioner Burge. "One of the biggest problems of an indoor range is the maintenance costs. The ranges we saw were not that big and they were costing the owners $30,000 every three months just to change the filters, remove lead from the building and get rid of spent powder."

Because indoor shooting ranges are enclosed, experts indicate that many environmental and health regulations need to be considered. The concerns include the problems associated with lead. Lead is not only a potential hazard in solid form, but can create gases when fired from a weapon.

In addition, the three Carbon citizens who went to Florida noticed other safety problems in the indoor shooting facilities they visited.

Many bullets fired in indoor ranges ricochet and cause injuries. Indoor ranges are not flexible. The facilities are designed for one or two kinds of shooting and, if used for other venues, result in damage to the facility or create possible problems with safety.

The initial outdoor plan drew concerned comments from Carbon County Airport manager Mark Francis.

The county airport manager pointed out that several changes would need to be made to the outdoor range plan should the venue be constructed where proposed.

"Besides just the airport property, we also have to protect the air surfaces in the area," said Francis. "The main problem I see is with the clay area. It's not a good idea to have pilots think a gun might be pointed at them as the land or take off."

Francis explained that he had talked with the Federal Aviation Administration and they had given him some guidance on the situation.

"I think this range is a great idea, but we just can't have lead possibly going in places where planes might fly," he remarked. "But I think this can be fixed with some redesign of the range, such as putting the archery venue where the shotgun area is now projected to go."

The group then discussed various changes that could accommodate the airports concern and it looked as if those issues could be resolved.

"I want everyone to know that if you have any further concerns or ideas I would like you to contact me or write the county commission a letter about this," Commissioner Burge told the crowd. "This isn't final yet. This meeting was just for information. Now the work begins. Within a few weeks we will be having a county commission meeting to make some final decisions on the matter."

During the interim, the committees will continue to meet and take input and work with new ideas.

Anyone interested in working with the committees can attend the meetings at the CEU Prehistoric Museum every Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

"One thing I want to make clear is that even though all these people are in on the planning and many of the clubs are here, this facility is being built for public use," stated Commissioner Burge. "It will be open for everyone's use."


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