Basalt shooting range proposal goes to commission | AspenTimes.com

Basalt shooting range proposal goes to commission

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

BASALT – The explosive fight over noise from the state-owned Basalt shooting range could be eased Thursday when a proposal to reduce hours of operation goes before the Colorado Wildlife Commission for possible adoption.

The town of Basalt asked the Colorado Division of Wildlife to reduce hours on weekends, at least temporarily, to give residents more peace and quiet. The proposal is to close the range at 5 p.m., rather than 7 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays.

If adopted, the rule change would allow the range to open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, starting Dec. 1. Weekday hours would remain unchanged at 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wildlife division officials and the Basalt Town Council hammered out the proposed compromise in July. The council was getting squeezed by one large contingent of residents who want the noise reduced from firearms at the range, and by a second, equally large contingent who don’t want to lose access to the site.

The council originally passed a resolution asking that the range be closed completely on Sundays. But Ron Velarde, regional manager for the wildlife division, told the council in July that the Sunday closure was unlikely to fly with the commission and that his staff wouldn’t support the town’s request. Sportsmen had vowed they would fight the Sunday closure, he said.

The sides hammered out a proposal for shortening the hours on weekends as an alternative to closing the range altogether on Sundays.

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The proposal must be approved by the wildlife commission, an 11-member board that oversees hunting and fishing rules in the state. The commission meets Thursday in Las Animas in southern Colorado. The workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bent’s Fort Inn, 10950 U.S. Hwy. 50.

Velarde told the council last summer that the proposed compromise would likely satisfy the majority of sportsmen. He predicted he will take “heat” from about 10 percent of shooting enthusiasts.

The Basalt shooting range is on a hillside adjacent to Lake Christine. The sound of firearms is amplified at times by wind speed and direction, among other factors. Some residents say the noise is intolerable and they want the facility closed.

Wildlife division officials have vowed to keep the facility open because there are so few public shooting ranges remaining. They say a range provides multiple benefits – gun safety lessons for youngsters and shooters of all ages and a safe alternative for hunters to dial in their scopes.

The debate over the facility regularly flares up. Some folks note the shooting range has existed for decades and that people shouldn’t have brought property where they could hear the sounds. Critics of the range counter that the noise has magnified in recent years by greater numbers of people using the facility.

Town officials have tried to broker a deal in the emotional battle. They say their intent has never been to close the shooting range, but tailor the hours.

The town and wildlife divisions are working on a long-tern solution to add facilities that would baffle the noise of firearms. If the sound-reducing sheds prove effective, the proposal before the wildlife commission would allow the board to consider restoring hours of operation.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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