Jeffco might be setting its sights on establishing an outdoor shooting range open to the public.
The county’s Parks and Open Space Department is putting together a working group to decide if a county-owned range is feasible. The group is expected to start work in March and report to the county commissioners by July.
The Parks and Open Space Department has been working since last year to see whether a county-owned gun range is a possibility. While the department has found 11 potential sites, each has flaws, said Jeffco Open Space Director Tom Hoby.
The county has been using criteria for outdoor ranges created by the Sports Shooting Management Partnership, Hoby said. Potential sites, according to the group, should be a half-mile from residential areas, a quarter-mile from communication towers, and have a slope of less than 10 percent.
Hoby said each location has some issue, whether it be proximity to a residential area or the land being home to an endangered species like the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
Of the 11 possible sites, four are on property owned by Jeffco Open Space, four are privately owned, one is on other public land, and two are on county-owned land.
Along with looking further into a potential home for the proposed gun range, the working group will also study how the range should be operated and how much it could cost, said Thea Rock, Open Space spokeswoman.
“There are a lot of operating considerations,” Rock said. “How it’s operated, does it require open hours and staffing at all times, is the facility secured? There’s a lot of questions the working group will answer.”
While the working group will look at how much a shooting range could cost, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife offers a grant specifically to create gun ranges. Hoby said the deadline for the next round of grants is February 2015.
In her research on the project, Open Space partnership coordinator Nancy York said that while many indoor shooting ranges are operating in the metro area, the county has few options for outdoor shooting besides the Pike National Forest.
York said the group is set to have representatives from the county’s Planning and Zoning Department, Sheriff’s Office, Jeffco Open Space staff and advisory committee, Denver Mountain Parks, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service and PLAN Jeffco.
The group also has three seats reserved for interested citizens, York said.
“Being on the board will require a commitment of time and energy. It’s not like it’s come in to one meeting, and you're done,” York said.