Basalt shooting range discussion shot down
BASALT – Basalt officials canceled plans last Thursday to lobby the Colorado Division of Wildlife to close the Basalt Shooting Range on Sundays.
Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux and Town Manager Bill Kane planned to attend the July 8 state wildlife commission meeting in Gunnison to outline their proposal for the board. Duroux said they decided the trip wouldn’t be worthwhile after being advised that sportsmen and other shooting proponents planned to attend the meeting en masse.
“Bill and I talked about it, and there was no way we were going to put ourselves in a situation where we were going to be thrown into a hostile environment,” Duroux said at a Town Council meeting Tuesday night. “We decided we were not going to do that.”
Kane said the debate would have focused on the right to bear arms even though that’s really not what the shooting range issue is about.
“There was a large group of very irate people, and we would not have had a chance to talk about the substance of our recommendations,” Kane said. “We would have been have been talking about the Constitution of the United States for about four hours, and we would have required armed guard assistance to get home.”
The Basalt Shooting Range has been a volatile issue for the past three years and, at various periods, for decades before that. Some residents fed up with noise from the range are pushing their representatives for relief. Shooting proponents contend they have surrendered too much already by shortening hours, and they are unwilling to yield any more.
The council, caught in between, formed a citizen committee to study the issue last year. The committee forwarded its recommendations this spring, and the council passed a resolution seeking a closure of the shooting range on Sundays to provide immediate relief. The council’s resolution also urged the wildlife division to study long-term ways to reduce the noise, such as constructing open-sided sheds where shooters would be positioned.
Council members stressed they aren’t seeking a permanent closure of the shooting range. It would remain open Monday through Saturday. The range is owned by the state, so the wildlife commission calls the shots. Basalt can only make requests.
Wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton said Kane and Duroux were advised that DOW staff had heard numerous people were going to show up at the commission’s monthly meeting Thursday to oppose the Sunday closure. The wildlife division was receiving letters opposed to the closure from sporting groups from around the state, he said. The National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying organization, was also “aware” of the issue, according to Hampton.
Shooting proponents collected signatures at the Cabela’s outdoor store in Grand Junction last week for a petition opposed to the Sunday closure of the Basalt range.
“We knew there was somebody out there making noise,” Hampton said.
In addition, the wildlife division staff didn’t feel it had adequate time to respond to Basalt’s request for a Sunday closure.
Debate of the issue is delayed, not dead. Kane told the council that top wildlife division officials from the region will meet with them in an informal work session this summer to discuss the issue. That meeting hasn’t been set yet, Kane said.
Council members Glenn Rappaport and Karin Teague said Basalt needs to continue to press for the Sunday closure.
“I’ve had several very disappointed constituents come to me and say ‘What happened?'” Teague said. “I think what you’re hearing from us is we’d like to continue to pursue this. I would like to meet the DOW sooner rather than later and keep moving forward. This is a big issue for a lot of people.”
Rappaport said the proposal the committee and council came up with was “very, very fair.”
“We should put a green light on this thing and keep trying to make our sentiments heard,” he said.
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