With hunting season approaching, Gypsum reopens gun range | VailDaily.com

With hunting season approaching, Gypsum reopens gun range

GYPSUM — In the immediate aftermath of the 12,500 Lake Christine fire in southwest Eagle County — which was ignited by civilian shooters using tracer rounds at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife gun range at Basalt — Gypsum officials decided it was prudent to temporarily shut down the community's shooting sports park.

Now, with hunting season approaching, town leaders have decided it isn't prudent to leave it closed.

Late summer is traditionally a busy time at the Gypsum Shooting Sports Park as hunters sight in rifles for the upcoming big game season.

"We would rather have people shooting here, in a controlled environment, than shooting out in the forest," said Chris Huffman, a member of the Gypsum Town Council and the Eagle Valley Rod & Gun Club board.

Safety first

While the gun range re-opened, the gun club has instituted a number of regulations and safety precautions.

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Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann noted the gun club management plan was developed in line with the current Stage 2 fire restrictions and has the support of both Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek and Gypsum Fire Chief Justin Kirkland.

"All users, members and non-members alike, of the range will be subject to the rules and conditions at all times while using the park under Stage 2 fire restrictions," Rietmann said.

Topping the list of new rules is limited access. Public hours at the range are limited to 4 to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday until further notice.

The other re-opening rules are:

All park users must sign in with the range safety officer or gun club board member on duty and have his or her name, driver's license number and phone number recorded in a log book.

A range safety officer or club board member must be on site before shooting activities of any type can occur.

Archery, trap, five-stand and pistol shooting is permitted with a range safety officer or board member on site.

Rifle shooting is permitted subject to the following conditions and limitations:

No targets may be engaged beyond 200 yards.

No tracer rounds, no amour piercing or steel ammo of any kind.

All steel targets will be removed from the range during Stage 2 restrictions

During these Stage 2 fire restrictions the range safety officers will be granted the authority to immediately eject individuals from the range for violations of any of these rules.

During Stage 2 fire restrictions the range safety officers will be granted the authority to stop all range activities if the wind speeds or ambient temperatures climb to an unacceptable level and impose further risk for fire.

Range readiness

Along with instituting the new rules, the shooting sports park has beefed up its fire protection measures.

Fire extinguishers have been placed at each firing line and the club's fire suppression UTV is fully operational; with a 25-gallon water tank loaded. The vehicle has been equipped with some basic wildland fire suppression hand tools.

The club has installed a one-and-a-half inch water line to run from the club's well head, across the top of the berm towards the end of the rifle range, to provide additional water supply. The fire hose has been strategically placed around the facility as a further safety measure.

Additionally the club has mowed down grass around the area and placed no smoking signs around the area. Finally, conspicuous signs have been placed around the range that detail the club address, so calling 911 can offer correct information to dispatchers.

Rietmann noted that in the event of a fire, an all range cease fire will be called, 911 will be contacted and everyone on site, age 18-years and older, will assist with suppression efforts.

With the safety rules in place, town and gun club members believe re-opening the range will actually reduce fire danger locally.

Eagle Valley Rod & Gun Club President Dick Mayne noted the sparse vegetation around the facility, combined with supervised shooting, makes it a much safer environment for pre-hunting season sighting.

"A lot of people need more supervision," Mayne said. "It's about making sure people aren't doing what they shouldn't be doing."

Huffman added the club will be strictly enforcing the limited hours at the range.

"If the gate is closed, we will be closed. If the gate is open, we will be open," he said.