Hunters fire back over Basalt range
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” More than 200 hunters and sportsmen from Aspen to New Castle said Tuesday that they are tired of Basalt residents taking shots at their shooting range.
The gun enthusiasts sent a clear message to the Colorado Division of Wildlife that hours have been pared enough at the state-owned facility and that Basalt residents should learn to live with the noise or chip in funds to dampen the effect.
“It’s kind of a classic problem ” we get new owners [moving in] and they’ve got a problem,” said Francis Krizmanich, an Old Snowmass resident who has used the shooting range for 23 years.
Midvalley resident Marty Schlumberger drew applause from the majority of the crowd when he said shooting range users have surrendered enough.
“We don’t want to compromise any more. We want the hours to remain the same,” he said.
The topic rears its head every couple of years, usually at Basalt Town Council meetings when residents come in with complaints and pleas for the board to do something about the noise. The shooting range is on the hillside above Lake Christine, just downvalley from Basalt’s downtown.
Depending on the types of weapons being fired as well as the wind speed, weather conditions and other factors, the noise can be heard to varying degrees in different Basalt neighborhoods.
The state wildlife division tried to strike a compromise last May by curtailing hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. The range was previously open during daylight hours and, in the early days, around the clock. The wildlife division also banned automatic weapons.
The state also spent more than $200,000 on noise barriers earlier this decade.
But in a meeting late last year in Carbondale, Basalt residents complained to wildlife commission member Dorothea Farris of Carbondale about the range. She promised to explore the issues and raise the topic again at the next opportunity.
Farris and a convoy of wildlife officers from throughout the West Slope held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss a variety of wildlife issues. The meeting, scheduled weeks ago, was held in Glenwood Springs even though the Basalt shooting range was the hot topic.
Mike Luciano of Basalt was one of only two audience members who complained about the noise from the shooting range. Luciano said he represented a dozen families who live near the town core and he asked the range users to acknowledge the noise problem.
“Be good neighbors. That’s all we’re asking,” he said, stressing that no one wanted to close the facility.
Despite facing a proverbial firing squad, Luciano requested that the shooting range be closed by 5 p.m. on Saturday and all day on Sundays.
“Do you go to church?” he asked the crowd in general.
“Yes, and we go to the range after church,” replied a woman in the crowd. That exchange seemed to irritate many audience members. Many of the speakers from then on weren’t in a conciliatory mood.
“Are a small amount of people going to dictate what happens?” one angry range user asked while referring to Basalt residents who don’t like the noise.
Several speakers noted the benefits the shooting range provides ” from teaching gun safety to youngsters in the Garfield County 4H Clubs to keeping out-of-state hunters out of the national forest when they want to practice on targets in the last days before deer or elk seasons open.
Several speakers echoed Krizmanich’s opinion that people who moved into the area ” long after the shooting range was established ” don’t really have grounds to complain. The area by Lake Christine has been owned by the wildlife division since the 1940s and organized as a formal shooting range in 1974.
The wildlife division’s research indicated a state law indemnifies shooting ranges from legal action over noise. “The statute states that shooting ranges are of higher importance to the morale and economic well-being of the state than noise ordinances,” said a flier handed out by wildlife division personnel.
Several audience members said noise shouldn’t be an issue if state law protects the shooting range. A few speakers from within their ranks suggested they had an obligation to be good neighbors. Farris was also of that opinion.
“It’s an issue I hope we can resolve without people taking sides,” she said. She sought voluntary measures to reduce noise further. A vocal minority in the crowd proposed working with Basalt residents to find ways to mitigate the noise, such as planting trees as a natural barrier.
People concerned about the noise might not have the ammo to force further compromise. Ron Velarde, the top-ranking wildlife division official in the Northwest Region, made it clear where the agency stands on the Basalt shooting range.
“First of all, we’re not going to shut the range down. We’re not,” Velarde said. “We’re not going to move the range.”