Mark Jones pulled back on his bowstring and aimed for the kill zone.
With a snap, his arrow struck the full-grown elk in the chest. A second arrow hit. Then a third.
Fatally injured, the animal nonetheless remained standing.
Styrofoam doesn’t bleed.
The life-size elk is actually a 3-dimensional archery model, one of about 50 Jones plans to scatter throughout his 28 acres of hilly, rural property in Greenacres. About 25 such critters already dot the hillsides: life-size black bears, white-tailed deer, big-horn sheep, coyotes, foxes, turkeys - even ground squirrels.
The Valley man is building a public archery range, complete with indoor and outdoor ranges, equipment rentals and educational programs. His plans are big.
They’re also controversial.
Several of Joneses’ neighbors are fighting the county’s decision to grant him a conditional use permit for the facility. They worry about traffic, trespassers and arrows flying onto their property. They say their rural neighborhood isn’t appropriate for an archery range which could eventually include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse. They say it’s not needed; a smaller archery club exists just three miles away.
Jones, a lifelong archer, promises to ease their fears, and build a range that will make the neighborhood proud.
And, he could very well get his chance.
His opponents filed their appeal of the county hearing examiner’s decision four days after the legal deadline. Although a preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 27 in Superior Court, the case could be thrown out.
Still, worried neighbors vow to keep fighting.
Jones, the owner of the Outdoor Sportsman sports shop in Spokane, says he isn’t concerned. If it’s meant to be, he said, it will succeed.
“We’ve prayed about it,” said Jones, who will run Spokane Valley Archery with his wife, Kathy. “Both of us felt God wanted us to try.”
Jones began setting up his life-size animal models last summer. Looking out their living room window, neighbors Larry and Mary Long now see a coyote, two deer and a black bear standing on its hind legs.
Cars driving by on Linke Road sometimes slow down to take a second look at the motionless animals, Larry Long said. He worries about stray arrows coming into his land, possibly hitting one of his llamas. He wishes Jones would change the range, so arrows aren’t headed in his direction.
Neighbor Curt Berklund winces at the idea of large numbers of cars and archers gathering at the facility for tournaments. He worries about trespassing and hunting on his 210 acres north and east of Joneses’ property.
Berklund plans to keep the land undeveloped for wildlife, including the deer, elk, coyotes and foxes already living there. This spring, he’ll plant 300 fruit trees and 33,500 Ponderosa pine trees on the property.
“He wants to change the whole environment,” Berklund said. “To me, it’s a commercial enterprise.”
Jones lives in the historic Daniel Courchaine homestead, south of Barker on Linke Road. The area is zoned general agricultural, a zoning category which allows for archery, rifle and pistol ranges, according to county hearing examiner Mike Dempsey. The zoning allows for ranges on as little as five acres of land.
Although Dempsey granted Jones the needed permit, he put numerous requirements and restrictions on the plans.
Jones must obtain at least $1 million in liability insurance from the National Field Archery Association. He’s limited to a 3,000-square foot building to begin with, and must wait a year to apply for permission to expand it to 9,000 square feet.
Targets and shooting positions must be at least 50 feet from neighboring properties.
Tournaments are limited to three per year.
“This is my dream,” said Jones, who helped his father set up two archery ranges on the west side of the state when he was just a child.
Joneses’ sports shop is decorated with the fruits of his bow-hunting expeditions. He’s hunted caribou in Alaska and leopard in Africa. He’s bagged 10 bears with his recurve bow.
His goal is to build the equivalent of an archery golf course, complete with rental equipment, lessons and even a fenced-in playground for children.
Archers will be able to practice inside, or hike through forested areas and up and down hills as they practice with the life-size animal models.
“It’s a hunting setting,” Jones said. “It’s in the natural setting the animal would be in.”
Archers who prefer paper targets will have an outdoor course also.
“My real goal is to get people into the sport and doing it correctly,” said Jones. “There’s nothing more exciting than to see a kid with a bow shooting his first arrow into a bull’s-eye.”
Jones hopes the facility will attract youths and families, not just hunters. He believes archery can be a wholesome sport, one that keeps young people out of trouble.
Unlike the existing two archery facilities in Spokane County, Jones doesn’t plan to run his range as a club. He won’t charge annual dues or require memberships.
“Someone who has a $10 bill in their hand can rent a bow and try it out,” Jones said.
The outdoor ranges could open to the public later this year, although an official date hasn’t been set.
He invites his neighbors to come over and try it out.
“We’re not taking anything personal,” Jones said. “Someday, these people are going to be proud of it.”
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