December 3, 2008 in Idaho

Improvements could allow Farragut range to reopen

Fish and Game addressing court’s noise, safety concerns
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Farragut State Park’s shooting range could reopen next year with soundproofing designed to muffle the whine of rifle shots and safety barriers to block errant bullets.

The range, which dates to Farragut’s days as a World War II naval training station, was closed by a 2007 court order. Neighbors challenged a $3.6 million range expansion proposed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, arguing that the current range failed to meet safety standards. Nearby residents testified that bullets whizzed overhead and struck their homes. They also complained about noise.

“When the range was active, especially on the weekends, it was boom-boom-boom,” said Harvey Richman, an attorney who lives nearby and represented the Citizens Against Range Expansion.

Fish and Game officials scaled back expansion plans and are working to bring the range into compliance, said Chip Corsi, regional supervisor in Coeur d’Alene.

Nearly $270,000 has been spent on perimeter fencing, warning signs and earthen berms designed to absorb sound. Next year, the department will spend as much as $125,000 on improvements including steel baffles to stop bullets from leaving the range.

When a 100-yard target range is complete, technicians will run tests to measure noise levels, Corsi said. Eventually, the department wants to add target ranges of 50 yards and 200 yards.

“The court order says that we address it and fix it or we don’t have a range,” Corsi told about three dozen skeptical neighbors who attended a Monday night briefing at the Bayview Community Center.

In his ruling, 1st District Court Judge John Mitchell prohibited the range from reopening until bullets could be contained on-site. Mitchell also set an annual limit of 500 “user days” for the shooting range, unless the noise falls below nuisance levels.

The Idaho Legislature later adopted a 64-decibel noise limit for shooting ranges. The noise limit came from Arizona, where Corsi said it’s helping shooting ranges in rural areas co-exist with encroaching subdivisions.

At Monday’s meeting, many neighbors said they’ve enjoyed the peace since Farragut’s shooting range closed nearly two years ago. However, reopening the range is a Fish and Game priority.

“It’s important for hunter recruitment and retention,” Corsi said. Fish and Game generates most of its revenue from sales of hunting and fishing licenses.

The range’s scaled-back master plan eliminates a shotgun range, separate pistol range and 600-yard competition range. But, Corsi said, it will still serve “folks who want to sight their rifle before hunting season” and kids taking hunter safety classes.

Jon Harwood, who lives near Athol, was one of two local residents who spoke in favor of reopening Farragut’s range. People need a designated shooting area, “or they’ll be shooting all over,” he said during Monday’s meeting.

Harwood said the Farragut range is popular among the area’s sportsmen. “For every one of you,” he told the crowd, “I could find 100 people who want the range to reopen.”

Contact Becky Kramer at (208) 765-7122 or by e-mail at beckyk@spokesman.com.


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