Basalt and the state target a deal for shooting range | AspenTimes.com

Basalt and the state target a deal for shooting range

BASALT – Town and state officials hammered out a proposal Tuesday night that tries to snuff the controversy over the noise from a shooting range on the outskirts of Basalt.

Basalt Town Council members agreed to drop a request to close the shooting range on Sundays. In return, top officials in the northwest region of the Colorado Division of Wildlife will consider shortening the hours of the range from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The facility would remain open seven days a week.

That’s the short-term key. For a long-term solution, the two sides want to team up to fund construction of sound-reducing sheds for use by target shooters firing pistols and rifles. If the sheds effectively reduce noise, the hours of operation could be expanded.

Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux pushed for the shorter hours on weekends because he hears from constituents who want peace and quiet in the evening.

“I think that will make a lot of our citizens happy,” he said.

Ron Velarde, regional manager for the wildlife division, said reducing hours on weekends will probably be accepted by the vast majority of people using the range. However, he will take “heat” from about 10 percent of sportsmen – something he said he is prepared to handle.

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“I think that’s a pretty good compromise,” Velarde said.

The range is current open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. The Basalt Town Council passed a resolution earlier this year that asked the state wildlife commission, which oversees the wildlife division, to close the shooting range on Sundays.

Velarde made it clear in a work session with the council Tuesday that he wouldn’t support the request. “That’s a biggie for us,” he said.

Velarde noted that many sportsmen work six days a week, leaving only Sundays to use the range.

“The users have said [that on] a Sunday closure, they’ll fight the fight,” he said.

The debate over the shooting range flares up every few years. It has been especially emotional over the past two years. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane said Basalt’s efforts have been misunderstood as an attempt to close the facility – a rumor the town has repeatedly tried to dispel. The discussion is hijacked by people who turn the debate into a fight over gun-ownership rights.

“It prevents us from having a meaningful and constructive discussion on how to make [the shooting range] the best neighbor it can be,” Kane said. He repeated that no one in the town government wants to close or move the shooting range.

Neither shooting range proponents nor residents offended by the noise attended Tuesday’s work session.

Velarde said he will run the proposal to shorten the hours past his bosses at the wildlife division. The two governments will concentrate on raising funds for the sound sheds in 2011. Kane said the structures, packed with egg crates and foam rubber with one open side, will cost an estimated $163,000.

“If there is a way we can reduce the noise, we’re all for it,” Velarde said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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