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Working group recommends Arvada site for outdoor shooting range in Jeffco

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By Sandy Barnes

A working group charged with finding an acceptable location for an outdoor public shooting range in Jefferson County has narrowed the choices to a former quarry in Arvada or another site within that city.

Tom Hoby, Jefferson County Parks and Open Space director, said issues regarding proximity to residents and impacts on natural resources have made the selection process difficult, during a presentation about the shooting-range study to the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee on July 10.

Hoby, county planning and park staff, a mediator and citizens participating in the working group have been meeting over the past few months to discuss the feasibility of a county-owned shooting range, as directed by the commissioners. 

Using criteria the group established — which include a site at least a half-mile from residences — members identified potential areas that included Jeffco parks and properties. Coal Creek Canyon Park, the south end of Hildebrand Ranch Park and property near the Rooney Valley law enforcement shooting facility made the final list. 

However, because of buffering issues and other considerations, the Pioneer Sand and Gravel quarry site in Arvada became the most viable alternative, Hoby said.

In heavily populated Jefferson County, finding a site with adequate buffering is a challenge, Hoby said. Even in counties where there is less population such as Gilpin and Clear Creek, there has not been success in finding a location for an outdoor shooting range. 

Although the maximum size of the property for the shooting range has been set at 6 acres, a tract of land ranging from 400 to 600 acres actually is needed to maintain an adequate distance from homes and recreational areas, he explained.

Ensuring safety was a primary consideration of the operations and design subgroup involved in the study, Hoby added.  

Other criteria the group set for a shooting range location included areas that are a quarter-mile from recreational areas and within 30 minutes of drive time from primary intersections of county roads, such as the junction of C-470 and Interstate 70. Also, the property on which the facility would be built would need to have a grade of 20 percent or less.

Working group members have been considering a shooting facility with 10 to 15 lanes that are 220 yards long and 40 yards wide for rifle and pistol shooting and that would include space for classrooms, a small office and restrooms. An area for trap and skeet shooting and an archery range were on the “nice-to-haves” list, Hoby said.

Hoby said that a funding source for the shooting range has not been determined, but it would possibly be a public-private enterprise. If the county commissioners decide to move forward with the project, grants would be pursued along with proceeds from the state lottery, he said.

Development cost for the facility is estimated at $200,000 to $1 million, plus operational, insurance and staff costs, Hoby said.

If the county commissioners decide to hire a consultant to work on the shooting-range project, Hoby said he would recommend that the cost be shared between the county and open space. 

Hoby is planning to present the working group’s finding and recommendations to Jeffco commissioners on July 22.

Most members of the Open Space Advisory Committee listened quietly to Hoby’s presentation on the shooting range. 

However, committee member Tookie Nemchak expressed concern about a perception that the shooting range may be an open-space project.

“The public is going to think this is an initiative we have undertaken. That’s a shame,” Nemchak said.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.