Barrelling forward

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Looks like there'll be new local playgrounds for people who love to fire guns for fun. This week, El Paso County commissioners took steps to set in motion a plan that will make shooting ranges on Fort Carson available to the public.

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Range availability had been lacking since the Rampart Range shooting area was shut down after a man was killed there in 2009. (We'd reported on troubles at that range some years back.)

Here's a press release issued today about the county's involvement:

During their Tuesday November 15 meeting, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) unanimously approved three resolutions formally establishing a partnership with Fort Carson to build a public shooting complex on the fort’s property. The BoCC also approved the creation of a nonprofit organization to collect private contributions to provide funding for the construction of the range.

The shooting complex has been explored in discussions between Commissioners, county staff and Fort Carson for nearly two years but just recently won the required approval from the Secretary of the Army to move ahead.

This kind of partnership with the Army and a local governmental agency has never been done before. Commissioner Amy Lathen noted, “The County is required by law to provide shooting range facilities to meet the training and certification needs of the Sherriff’s Office. This partnership lets us fulfill that requirement and at same time increase public access to a clean, well supervised family friendly shooting facility.”

Lathen
  • Lathen

Fort Carson Commander, Major General David Perkins addressed the Commissioners. “This is an historic partnership, but also a continuation of a partnership with the people of El Paso County. It’s a new level, a new bar was set. This brings together all of the assets that make our democracy unique. This is what democracy is about. This is why we wear the uniform and serve.”

When the U.S. Forest Service made its decision to shut down the Rampart Range shooting area nearly three years ago Commissioners we were contacted by many residents asking the county to establish a public range. But finding a suitable location proved difficult. Vice-Chair Sallie Clark who represents the area where the former Rampart Shooting Range was located said, “This is a great opportunity to make things right and offer an alternative site for public use while also providing needed training facilities for our Sheriff’s Office and city police departments within the county.”

The new public range will be on Fort Carson land near exit 132 off I-25. To make access to the shooting complex uncomplicated, an entrance is provided just before arriving at Gate 20, thereby eliminating the need to go through the security check point.

Plans call for a portion of the new shooting complex to be reserved Monday through Friday to meet the training requirements of the El Paso County Sherriff’s Office and Colorado Springs Police Department. The remainder of the facility’s six ranges and 90 shooting lanes are open and available to the general public seven days a week. Sheriff Terry Maketa says the current range near Pikes Peak Community College, which serves all law enforcement agencies in the area, is just too small and it has become very difficult to schedule enough practice time on the range to meet the requirements of all of the Deputies and Police Officers who use it.

The complex will be built in three phases over several years. The Secretary of the Army has given approval for phase one which includes the construction of six ranges to accommodate 90 shooters. Commissioner Dennis Hisey, an avid hunter, whose district includes Fort Carson observed, “This partnership with Fort Carson provides a needed facility for law enforcement training and provides easy access to clean safe ranges for civilians and military alike. As more people embrace the shooting sports, it will also provide new customers for area private ranges in the area as well.”

The plan calls for contributions from community partners to construct the range through the newly created nonprofit, Soldiers’ Friend Foundation. Money left over from construction and resulting from ongoing fund raising efforts of the Foundation will be used to provide special assistance for local military families that are in need and facing a hardship.

The shooting complex will be operated by Fort Carson FMWR (Family Morale Welfare and Recreation). A fee structure has not yet been formalized but funds generated from user fees are expected to provide for the operation and maintenance of the range with excess revenues designated to support soldiers and their families on the Mountain Post through FMWR.

The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service have also offered their partnership to help facilitate the construction of the shooting range. Not only do these organizations have expertise in fire arm safety and training, they have access to grants to assist in funding the project.

USFS Forest Supervisor Jerri Marr said the grants available for such projects are much easier to obtain when there are partnerships between different organizations. “Any time we can partner with other agencies, we feel it is a success,” she said. “We all work together on behalf of all the citizens we serve.”

Commissioner Peggy Littleton commented, “It is great when we have four entities that receive tax payer funding collaborating to create a wonderful multipurpose facility that will serve the entire community.”

Phase one of the Cheyenne Mountain Sports Shooting Complex is tentatively scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.

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