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Basalt targets Sundays at the shooting range

BASALT – The Basalt Town Council added ammo to an already-explosive issue Tuesday night by recommending that the Colorado Division of Wildlife close its shooting range on the outskirts of town on Sundays.

The council voted 6-0 to approve a list of recommendations proposed by a citizens’ committee to try to reduce noise coming from the popular shooting facility. The committee, which met throughout the winter, advised closing earlier on Sundays, changing the closure from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The council took that recommendation a step further, with the majority expressing that closing the facility one day a week would be a good compromise.

“For those of us living here, it is a big deal,” said Councilman Glenn Rappaport.

About eight residents attending the meeting complained about the noise from the shooting range, and roughly the same number spoke in favor of leaving operations alone.

Basalt resident Ed Simonson, an opponent of the shooting range, said the noise from the gunfire has grown to the point where it makes life miserable every day for those within earshot.

He drew an analogy for the council: “The patient is bleeding to death. The suggestions made by the committee are Band-Aids.” He wants the shooting range moved.

Other critics of the facility said they understand it plays a useful role for Basalt, and they sought more of a compromise than Simonson. John LaSalle suggested the Sunday closure as a concession to residents.

“Right now the townspeople are making all the sacrifices,” he said.

LaSalle also pushed for shortening hours to 5 p.m. on weekdays from the current 7 p.m.

The shooting range is currently open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Shooting range user Marty Schlumberger cautioned the council that cutting hours too drastically will affect worthwhile hunter education programs for the 4-H Club and a high school program, as well as impinge too drastically on working folks. Shortening hours will also intensify use during open hours, he said.

Perry Will, area wildlife manager for the wildlife division, said the state agency wants to be a “good neighbor” and it will take a serious look at Basalt’s recommendations. But he said the state wildlife commission, the governing board on wildlife issues, will be reluctant to reduce hours at the shooting range. One role of the agency is to promote hunting and related activities, and shooting ranges are seen as vital to the mission.

Will said closing the range on Sundays will just result in sportsmen improvising. “They will set up targets in the woods,” he said after the meeting.

Will and Mayor Leroy Duroux said the issue is tough for both the Town Council and the wildlife commission. They face a lot of pressure from their constituencies.

Duroux said there has been an ebb and flow to the issue since he first joined the council in 1994. “This is an issue that doesn’t seem to want to go away,” he said.

Town Manager Bill Kane said there is hope for the ultimate solution. The town and wildlife division are paying for a noise study by a firm called Noise Solutions Inc. The consultant is investigating the effectiveness and cost of building enclosures for shooters – not entirely closing in the range, but creating open-ended sheds for shooters to baffle the noise.

He and Will said preliminary results of the study are encouraging. Will said mitigation could be achieved at a reasonable price. Kane said the wildlife division has grants available for mitigation at ranges.

The town will urge the wildlife division to both work with it on mitigation steps for the long-term and shut down the shooting range on Sundays in the interim.

“Right now it’s in the DOW’s hands,” Duroux said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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