Planting pansies in a war zone

Barbara Lawlor, Boulder County.  About a dozen Magnolia Road residents met with 10 Forest Service employees, Boulder County Sheriff’s Officers, the Division of Wildlife and the acting District Ranger Nat Gillespie at the 357 Trailhead on Thursday, June 29.


The participants gathered at the parking area before the gate at the Boy Scout Trail, a much used recreational trail, well-known to bicyclists, hikers and shooters.


As the group formed a circle and were in the process of introducing themselves, a volley of gunfire interrupted the conversation. Over the course of the meeting, the shots continued from a barrage of different weapons, cracking through the quiet forest.


Welcome to our lives, said the Magnolia Road residents. This is what it sounds like all the time.


The residents spoke: Bob Carlyle, a long time Magnolia resident said he confronted shooters up here at least 50 times during the shooting ban who were shooting towards houses.


“There have been times I have had to bushwhack my way back to the road because the trail was too dangerous. Once I ran into a drunk who was shooting every which way.”


Karl Kellogg lives almost directly across from the trail and said he hears shooting all the time. “They have no regard for the 450 foot perimeter. They leave bullets and shotgun shells. It is nerve wracking and scary. If you see someone shooting and feel like reprimanding them, you are putting yourself in a risky position.”


This has all been said before and the forest service has always responded that they are working on a solution, trying to find an appropriate place to form a controlled shooting range. But even then, argued the residents, many of the shooters are not going to want to pay, they will continue to come to the mountains where they can shoot for free.


Longtime resident Vivian Long said, “We know the forest service is for everyone and some uses are more compatible than others. But having a sniper shooting at people should not be allowed. Arson should not be allowed, and yet it is being allowed in our forest. These guys don’t know where they are shooting, they don’t know there are houses here.”


Forest Service Law Enforcement officer Paul Krisanitz suggested that hikers carry a whistle to let target shooters know that people are in the area. But, most target shooters wear ear protection and can’t hear much of anything.


Bob Carlyle said he had to approach a shooter and tap him on the shoulder to let him know he was there. “I have a lot of guns but I wouldn’t shoot up here.”


When Gillespie was asked if this particular section of the forest service could be banned from shooting, he said that the shooters would just go the neighboring area.


Shooting in residential interface areas is common all over the Front Range, he said. A band-aid isn’t going to work anymore.


The residents said if the Magnolia dump shooting area was closed in 2012 under the federal health and safety regulations, why couldn’t the same thing be done now and here? They were told that things were easier back then; now to close an area, they would have to go to Washington DC to get congressional approval.


Gillespie replied that the forest service is dedicated to a long range solution.


Magnolia Road attorney Howard Kaushansky replied, “We’re done. We can’t take it anymore. We are talking when, not if, someone gets shot up here. Why can’t you get the process done? Nothing has happened in the last five years.”


Would a temporary ban work until the FS could find a solution to make it safe? Vivian Long told the ranger that people are afraid to hike on the trail anymore, that she saw a family hurrying out of the woods, with the children in tears, afraid of the gunshots. The animals in the area are stressed and even gardening has become a pastime surrounded by loud gunshots. It is like planting pansies in a war zone.


“I am dumfounded that we are the ones who have to put the pressure on. If it closes, let the target shooters raise their voices. You can see we are angry, and we are being reasonable, but we can’t just sit around anymore,” said Howard Kaushansky.


In the past year, a group of Magnolia residents have pooled funds to pay for extra deputy patrols in the area. They say they shouldn’t have to pay for protection. BCSO deputy at the scene told him that the Magnolia Road area is more highly patrolled than any other in the mountain area. He said officers wanted to focus on reckless shooting behavior not just target shooters.


“But you have legitimate concern. We are trying to come up with a legitimate solution.”
This isn’t a community issue anymore, said Gillespie. It has become a societal issue. He said that as of now, the forest service will try to use education and signage to mitigate the dangerous shooting. Karl Kellogg looked at the draft sign presented by the ranger and said, “This is an invitation for people to come and shoot.”


When Vivan Long asked what would happen if someone got shot or killed, she didn’t receive an answer.


Law enforcement officer Krisanitz told the group that if they experience close calls, they should report them, that data is needed to make their case.


The residents wanted to know what is the problem in the system? Where do we go next?


What is broken?


When the meeting was announced, the forest service said that it was to gather information and that nothing would be decided at the meeting.



(Originally published in the July 13, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.