Trash may shut Minturn shooting range |

Trash may shut Minturn shooting range

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyGypsum resident Beric Christiansen picks up empty shell casings Friday at the Gypsum Gun Club. Christiansen has taken gun classes there and says it's a lot dirtier than the range in Gypsum.

MINTURN, Colorado ” For years, people have shot junk at the Minturn Shooting Range in violation of federal law.

Then they leave that junk, such as old washing machines, refrigerators and ski boots, sitting on national forest land.

That has U.S. Forest Service officials threatening to close the decade-old range, about a mile southeast of Minturn, unless someone adopts and cleans it.

“We just don’t have the resources to keep it clean,” said Dave Van Norman, on the recreation staff of the Forest Service. “So we’re considering closing it down.”

People don’t want to see ski boots littering public lands, said Mathew Bayley, a local shooting instructor who plans to organize a group of people to adopt the shooting range by cleaning it this spring and then monthly after that.

Bayley thinks the majority of shooters throw their trash away ” only a half dozen people trash the range, he said.

“That’s all it takes to make it look bad,” he said.

If the Minturn shooting range closes, only the Gypsum Gun Club will remain as a designated place for people to shoot.

“We need more than just one place in this valley,” Bayley said.

If people continue to shoot glass bottles, and old refrigerators ” posing a risk to wildlife who step on glass and freon leaching into the ground ” the range will close by fall, Van Norman said.

The range has been difficult to keep clean, he said. Some Boy Scouts cleaned it last year, but soon afterward, the range was trashed.

“It’s become basically an eye sore for us and a plain headache,” Van Norman said.

If it’s closed, people will be ticketed if they shoot there, he said. Littering on national forest land carries a $150 fine.

Whenever Eagle-Vail resident Hugh Schmidt shoots, he cleans up after himself. He even shoots over a tarp to catch the bullet shells coming out of his gun.

“You’re responsible for your own mess,” he said.

The range is a nice place to shoot with a friend and relax, he said.

“If you don’t treat it with respect, you’re going to lose it,” he said.

Michelle Hall, of Vail, said she is willing to help clean the Minturn range. She likes shooting, but also hiking in the area.

“I’m a big backcountry user and the whole thing is kind of disgusting to go out there and see,” she said.

Beric Christiansen usually shoots at the Gypsum Gun Club. Families pay a $100 fee and then get a code to enter a gate, he said. If members help clean the range, their dues are reduced to $50 a year, he said.

“The members are pretty concerned about keeping it nice,” he said about the Gypsum Gun Club. “I think that system would work pretty well” at the Minturn shooting range.

People doing community service may also help clean the range, said Bill Kight, spokesman for the Forest Service.

Bayley also plans to make signs reminding people to clean up after themselves every time they shoot and will post laminated instruction cards at the range showing people how to build their own shooting targets, he said.

Because people can shoot in most places in national forest ” except near trails, streams, roads and campsites ” Bayley said it’s important that shooters use a designated place where the chances of someone getting injured decrease.

Bayley calls the range ” off Cemetery Road in Minturn and next to the Two Elk Trail ” a “beautiful area” and “a blessing.”

During the summer when the range is open, he likes to eat his breakfast there and enjoys shooting as the sun comes up. He practices shooting with his rifles and his pistols and takes breaks to read a book.

“It’s just heaven on earth,” Bayley said. “That’s really why I’m doing this.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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