Group advises cutting hours at Basalt shooting range
BASALT – A citizens’ committee in Basalt recommended Tuesday that the hours of a popular shooting range outside of town be curtailed on weekends to reduce the noise for homeowners trying to relax.
Members of the committee stressed repeatedly in a public meeting Tuesday that they aren’t trying to close the shooting range, which has been owned and operated for decades by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“The whole thrust [of the committee meetings] has been, ‘We’re not moving the range – how do we make it a better range,'” said Bill Kane, Basalt town manager and member of the shooting range committee.
The committee has been meeting monthly since November after being appointed by the Town Council to study what could be done about noise pollution. The committee voted unanimously to approve recommendations that included closing the shooting range at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
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Currently the facility is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. The DOW curtailed the hours in May 2008 in response to complaints. The facility used to be open from sunrise to sunset.
The committee recommendations will be presented to the Basalt Town Council at a public hearing May 11, in the evening at a time to be determined. The council cannot control the shooting range, but it can make requests to the DOW.
The shooting range has sparked controversy for the last 15 years, according to Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux, and Tuesday was no exception. About 35 people attended the committee’s public meeting. The majority of the audience spoke in favor of the range and the services it provides to hunters and target shooters.
Avi Manges of Willits said her gun training and practice with an outfitter at the range came in handy this spring when an intruder tried to enter her garage. She said she greeted him with a .38 caliber pistol and successfully defended herself, chasing him off.
Several speakers said the range provides valuable services, from providing hunters with a safe place to dial in their scopes in the fall to gun safety training for youths and hosting events during the disabled veterans’ annual visit to the Roaring Fork Valley.
Range critics countered that use of the facility has grown over the years and created intolerable levels of noise. Longtime Basalt resident Ed Simonson said the blasting from the range wasn’t nearly as noticeable in the 1970s and ’80s.
“It was like a dog that barked occasionally,” Simonson said. “Now that dog barks all the time.” He wants the shooting range moved to an undisclosed spot.
Other critics of the range weren’t as demanding. Anita Strickbine said she wants more limits on the range, but understands it provides a useful service. She believes the noise from the shooting has increased in the last 25 years because the construction of more buildings has created a “ricochet effect” and enhanced the sound.
“The semi-automatic firing up there rips my heart out,” she said.
Shooting range committee member Mike Luciano pressed the board to recommend curtailing the hours by a greater degree. He said he gathered signatures from 140 Basalt residents who are concerned about the noise but couldn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting at noon.
“We have lost all of our weekends, all of our evenings,” he said. Luciano proposed closing the range at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends.
The other committee members wouldn’t support his proposal, so Luciano settled for the recommendation for a 5 p.m. weekend closure, for now. He indicated the homeowners concerned about noise will keep trying to curtail hours if the Town Council and wildlife division don’t honor the recommended weekend hours.
“We’re going to take this as far as we can and defend our property rights,” Luciano said.
Kane said he remains hopeful that steps can be taken at the range to reduce the noise. Tests are being undertaken to see if shooting from sheds lined with special materials would baffle noise enough to make an investment worthwhile. The shooting range wouldn’t be moved indoors, but shooters would be partially enclosed. No information was available on cost. The DOW would likely have to seek grants for construction since the state agency is strapped for cash.
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