DOW looks to quell noisy gun range
The Valley Journal
The Colorado Division of Wildlife intends to erect sound barriers at the Lake Christine shooting range, even though the state agency may well be exempt from Eagle County noise and land-use regulations.
“Regardless of what the process with Eagle County looks like at the end, we’re still going to do these range improvements,” said Pat Tucker, area wildlife manager for the DOW.
The longtime shooting range at the Basalt State Wildlife Area, just outside the town limits, comes under political fire periodically for the noise it generates, and several years ago an upscale subdivision went in just above it. But because the range is owned by the state and has existed there for some 30 years, nothing much has happened.
The Roaring Fork Valley Sportsmen’s Association operates and maintains the range under an agreement with the Division.
“We’re not going to shut the range down,” Tucker said emphatically.
However, in the interest of neighborly relations, the DOW has pursued federal grant money to make a number of improvements to the site, including something to reduce the noise impacts on what has become a semi-urban area.
The most recent complaint came from Basalt resident Michael Kerr, who said “you want to go sit outside on the patio and enjoy the evening, and people are up there shooting guns and it sounds like a war zone.”
Kerr lives probably a half mile away from the range in the Elk Run subdivision, but said the gunfire still reaches his home, loud and clear.
“It’s echoing off the mountain,” he said. “It echoes through the whole valley.”
He filed a formal complaint with Eagle County, which investigated the matter and found the range apparently out of compliance with county rules. According to Bob Narracci of the county’s Community Development Department, a shooting range in the county’s “resource” zone district is required to obtain a special permit, which the Christine range doesn’t have.
However, since the range appears to predate the county regulation, the DOW may not be required to do anything. Furthermore, according to a letter to Eagle County from Timothy J. Monahan of the Colorado Attorney General’s office, state law exempts sport shooting ranges from local noise regulations.
The noise exemption, Monahan wrote, “should be clearly understood and taken into consideration by everyone involved.”
Nevertheless, Monahan continued, the DOW is willing to go through the county’s permitting process and try to resolve any concerns. In that spirit, the DOW is also considering ways to reduce the noise.
Although he’s still awaiting written confirmation, Tucker believes the Division has secured a federal grant between $125,000 and $150,000 for various improvements to the Christine range, including access for the disabled, safety enhancements, general cleanup and noise reduction. The Division will have two years to spend the money, as of Sept. 1, Tucker said.
Fine and dandy, said the noise-weary Kerr. But he can’t figure out why the Division, which has a mission to protect Colorado wildlife, is even in the shooting range business.
“How does that benefit wildlife?” he asked. “It’s really contradictory, what they’re doing.”
Tucker explained that the Division gets the bulk of its revenue from hunting and fishing licenses, along with a share of federal taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. For that reason, the DOW’s budget is directly related to the use of firearms. DOW officials say it’s integral to their mission to provide places for hunters to learn and practice shooting.
“We’re trying to ensure that people don’t drop out of the hunting picture for not having a place to practice and learn to use firearms,” Tucker said.
The Division operates a number of shooting ranges statewide, Tucker added, but the Basalt range is the only one in the Roaring Fork Valley. Because of the scarcity of ranges in the area and growth in the valley, Tucker admitted the range is likely seeing more activity than ever before.
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A majority of users of the popular Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale say they would be OK with closing the trails during the muddiest times of the year.