Irate residents demand answers

shooting  roche womanBarbara Lawlor, Nederland.  On Monday night, July 20, the Northern Front Range Recreational Sport Shooting Management Partnership hosted an open house at the Nederland Community Center. The purpose of the event was to present information on each of the currently proposed shooting sites and to collect input from residents to help the partnership determine which sites were the most feasible and acceptable.

Included in the first round of possibilities are: Ruby Gulch, off the Peak to Peak Highway north of Nederland; West Magnolia Road; Allenspark Dump, which has completed an analysis and public input and is pending decision; Bunce School Road; and Beaver Reservoir Road.

shooting mike and randyAbout 150 people walked around the NCC meeting room studying the maps of potential sites and talking in groups, waiting for an opportunity to speak their minds to representatives of the Boulder County Commissioners and Land Use staff.

When Garry Sanfacon explained to the crowd that there would be no general question and answer session, summer resident Leslie Roche took the floor demanding that Sanfacon answer just one question. “Why are all of the sites located in the mountains?”

Sanfacon deflected the question, defining the intent of the meeting, and saying that Roche should fill out the comment card or send her queries or objections to the website. She was not giving up easily, and soon another woman jumped in defending Sanfacon and the work the BC Land Use has done to find a solution for the shooting issue.

Roche left the room with Boulder County Commissioners’ Deputy Michelle Krezek, who explained to her that the mountain sites were chosen because “People want to come up here to shoot and enjoy the whole mountain experience.”

shooting serious crowdMany of the open house participants said they understood the need for a designated, developed shooting site rather than dispersed shooting areas, but argued that the proposed sites were not appropriate, especially the West Magnolia campground area.

A petition with almost 400 signatures has been circulated: “Saying No to the West Mag Shooting Area.” It is an online petition at Change.org and almost every signature included a reason for opposing the proposed location.

Susan Wagner of Magnolia Road sums up the objections: “This proposed location is right in one of the most heavily used hiking, mountain biking, and other recreational site. It presents not only physical danger to campers and others passing through the area, but the noise of firing destroy the peace that is one of the reasons it is sought out for recreation.

“The area has already been clearcut, resulting in serious impact on local wildlife, as well as on human recreational opportunities. The constant noise and danger presented by shooting in the area will further damage forest health, wildlife survival, and human quality of life. It is also too close to the high school and with the echoes the mountainsides present, will lead to noise pollution throughout the residential areas.”

Long-time local resident Andy Cookler looked at the proposed sites and said, “I am a real estate developer and usually offended by the Not in My Back Yard attitude, but in this case I have to say, ‘Not in my ____back yard’, which I know is a double standard but it works in this case.”

shooting west mag siteLarge maps with proposed potential sites were spread on tables throughout the room, clearly showing surrounding roads and structures. Doug McKenna studied the Beaver Reservoir site and said that his easement was directly adjacent to the location boundary. “This is a conservation area, a wildlife migratory haven where young ones are born. There are 2,000 acres of contiguous conservation land and watershed leading from the high country to the plains. We feel like the commissioners have made their decisions without the correct map.”

Another Beaver reservoir resident, Bruce Drogsvold, said, “A shooting range is best located in an urban environment, like near a railroad yard, or a noisy airport, or a race car track, or an industrial area. That is where a responsible shooting range needs to be located. Not up here. If they want to come enjoy the peace and quiet of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, tell them to leave their guns at home.”

Residents grew frustrated as their questions were fielded not with answers but with instructions to write them down along with suggestions for alternative sites.
Sanfacon said finding the perfect place will be a challenge. “Recreational shooting wasn’t in the original USFS plan, because at that time there was no significant contention. Boulder County has identified West Magnolia as meeting the preliminary criteria. It could mean that the shooting closures would be made permanent.” The West Mag site is where the old, presently unused boy scout camp is located.

Sanfacon said the even though a site has been identified, it would have to go through the lengthy National Environmental Protection Agency process. “We are trying to find a balance,” said Sanfacon. “With a designated site, the forest service has proposed to ban shooting in much of the county. The designation would eliminate the need for resources.”

People were concerned about where enforcement funds would come from and wanted to get engineering, berm, and regulations information. They were told the specifics would come after a site was chosen and the process begins.

“The status quo is not safe,” said Sanfacon. “We have to do something. Dispersed shooting is not safe.”

The next open house will take place in Allenspark on Thursday, August 6, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Peaceful Valley Resort, 475 Peaceful Valley Road, Lyons.

For more information about the Partnership and criteria for identifying possible designated shooting areas, go online at www.SportShootingPartners.org.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.