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Commission approves property purchase for county gun range

Sun Advocate community editor

A 'great flat' identifies the location of the private property purchase approved by the Carbon County Commission last week. In addition to being the location of the county's gun range development project, the site has room to include a campground, archery and paint ball venues along with picnic and parking areas.

The effort to find property on which to build a county gun range came to fruition last Wednesday when the Carbon commission approved the purchase of a parcel of land near Wattis Road.

"We were getting a bit nervous about what was going to happen after the other two possibilities for locations fell through," said Commissioner Steve Burge. "But this piece of ground emerged just when we needed it."

The reason for the concern surfaced when the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board told the commissioners in the spring that the money appropriated for the project - a $750,000 grant and $750,000 low interest loan - last year would be in jeopardy if the county did not find the ground and start the development.

The first serious site considered was south east of the Carbon County Airport. The site is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the spot appeared to be a good spot for the range.

After months of negotiation, it appeared to the county that there were insurmountable problems involved in the acquisition of the BLM land. The problems included how long it would take the BLM to issue a deed to the property to the county, potential conflicts with the envisioned airport expansion and the federal funding for the projects.

In addition, the utilities for improvements at the site were distant and the relocation costs could have been prohibitive.

Next, local officials looked at property near Pinnacle Peak owned by the Utah State School and Institutional Land Trust.

The land had positive possibilities, particularly the fact that the topography was almost perfect. But after a few months of working with SITLA to secure the property, it was apparent the deal was untenable, according to the local officials.

The situation put the county in a position of having to find private land for the gun range. There were problems with the scenario.

First, local officials had to find the right amount of property (about 640 acres) in a topographical configuration that could be used.

Second, the land would have to be in the right place so the site would be convenient for users of the range. The property would also have to be available for the amount of money the county had to purchase the land. The search for private property started early in the spring and continued until just a few weeks ago.

"Everyone was working to find a good place for the range," said Burge. "This place when presented to us was exactly what we needed."

The property is located several miles up Wattis Road from the junction with Hiawatha Road. The land, owned by Frank and Carol Feichko, became available after several discussions with the county.

While nothing is set except the purchase of the property, county officials indicated that there is a possibility the area could take on a theme park atmosphere because of what could be placed on the site.

Besides general and specific gun venues, there will be room for archery and paint ball ranges. The land has water on it that comes with the property. The water comes from North Springs and the property has a right to 16 acre feet from the source.

The property for the new gun range is located just up Wattis Road from the junction with Hiawatha Road. The site offers a number of places that will be ideal for various kinds of firearm recreation including box canyons for archery, a perfect spot for a cowboy town and a large flat for a long range rifle area. County officials hope to also offer a campground and possibly a fishing pond on the east side of the property.

While not of culinary quality, the water could be used for irrigation of landscaping around a proposed clubhouse and camping grounds at the site, according to officials.

There are also some ponds that have been created by the springs, and there is the possibility of a fishing pond being created out of those ponds or in another spot.

In addition on the southeast side of the property there is a perfect place to build a "rock crawler" course, a venue the county has been working on to find a place to put for about a year.

Probably some of the most attractive values of the property is its location. Only 20 minutes from Price, it has a good highway that leads right up to it and the existing gravel roads are in good shape, although the county will probably close those off and design a new road up the west side of the lands for controlled access.

The main part of the property sets at about 6300 feet in altitude which makes it a little cooler during the summer months than the bottom of the valley. A large flat in the middle of the land would be perfect for the long distance shooting ranges and has about a three percent grade from east to west.

There are also some box canyon areas that officials feel would be perfect for archery courses and mountain man activities. Finally, the southwest corner of the property has some large trees, a possibly perfect place for campgrounds. Electrical power is also very near by as well.

Proponents of the recreation area have said they could envision someone loading up their various firearms, a fishing pole and other gear and spending the day driving from spot to spot on four wheelers or golf carts and participating in all the different venues offered.

About the only question during the commission meeting about the viability of the property was concerns about the gas wells on the property. All are apparently owned by ConocoPhillips.

"One of the things that needs to be done is a survey of all the roads and pipelines as they are built," said county planning and zoning director Dave Levanger.

Following up, Commissioner Mike Milovich also thought that same issue was important.

"I just don't want to see us put a shotgun range in somewhere and then have them want to run a road through the middle of it," he stated.

To protect the existing wells and improvements on the land, the county plans to build berms around them.

"After talking with ConocoPhillips about the land purchase we are making I am sure they are going to work well with us on this project," stated Burge.

The commission then voted to buy the land at a price of $300,000 for the 640 acres involved.

The commission also took up the issue of an architect for the range. The initial feeling was that the firm of Pasker, Gould, Ames and Weaver from Murray should be the architects on the project, because they have already done some work on it and are familiar with the situation. According to their estimate, they also initially appeared to be charging the least. But Milovich took issue with that.

"Pasker wants $25,000 up front to do the project and six percent of the total cost," he pointed out. "The way I figure that he is actually asking for eight percent commission which is much more than we expected.

Burge agreed pointing out that the contract had been changed since the initial one that was submitted to the county last fall.

"I know we want him to do this project, but he needs to reconcile with us on this," said Milovich. "He needs to go back to the price structure he proposed last year."

The commission then decided to have Levanger negotiate with Pasker on the situation before making a final decision.

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