City of Rifle to consider a shooting range in town
Among the numerous items to be considered when Rifle prepares its annual budget in the coming months, city leaders are expected to address the possibility of a shooting range in city limits.
The idea, which was discussed previously in work sessions, came up at City Council’s meeting last week. Two developments are driving the conversation at City Hall.
One is continued concerns by some city leaders and residents about potential recreational conflicts in the Hubbard Mesa area north of Rifle. The other is a survey of residents’ parks and recreation desires conducted by the city earlier this year.
In the survey, 50 percent of respondents, or 1,607 households, said there was a need for a “shooting sports and shooting archery range” in Rifle. The survey also found a desire for shooting and archery programing. However, the same survey found that a shooting facility ranked behind five other possible facilities, including a multiuse gym and dog park, in terms of priority of investment.
The combination of the survey results, which many members of council have said came as a surprise, along with the city’s ongoing involvement in the Hubbard Mesa discussion, led to the idea of exploring a public shooting range in the area.
Councilor Ed Green largely led the exploration of a shooting range in Hubbard Mesa with the hope that it would reduce the potential for conflict between target shooters, who have historically used the area, and other recreation user groups, such as mountain bikers and trail runners.
However, in discussing the issue last week, Green said a shooting range in the area, which is a mix of private and Bureau of Land Management land, is impractical.
“The other thing we realized is there’s really not a credible option for siting a range up there,” said Green.
However, Green said he and Councilor Joe Elliott found several locations in an industrial area near the entrance to Hubbard Mesa off U.S. 13.
While Elliott said it would not be appropriate for the city to lease private land for a shooting range, there is a culture of shooting sports in Rifle, and he would like to see a safe place for people to go out and shoot. Having that space might help alleviate some of the issues at Hubbard Mesa, he said.
However, not everyone was sold on the idea of creating a shooting range in the city.
In citing the presence of a private shooting range near Hubbard Mesa and a public shooting range operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife near Rifle Gap State Park, Councilor Dana Wood said she does not want to see the city dedicate resources for a shooting range.
“I think if we can explore the options that are on the table … I think starting there is probably the best option, and in my opinion exploring another shooting range is not really one of my priorities,” Wood said.
She also said she would like to see the survey results explored more before allocating resources for a physical facility.
“I think before we say we’re going to build something, that has to be discussed a little bit more.”
Mayor Randy Winkler voiced reservations about establishing a shooting range within city limits, saying it seemed absurd.
In parsing out the two issues, Mayor Pro-Tem Barb Clifton said the shooting range seemed more like a budget discussion, while the Hubbard Mesa issue is a broader discussion that needs to be had with other stakeholders.
City Manager Matt Sturgeon said it would not require much time or money to have staff take a preliminary look at the sites identified by Green and Elliott.
As for Hubbard Mesa, Clifton said she felt the city should ensure other agencies, specifically BLM, move forward with user group meetings, which have yet to happen.
Not much has happened since an early August conversation between Rifle representatives and Garfield County commissioners.
But with busy summer months winding down, David Boyd, public affairs specialist for BLM’s Northwest Colorado District, said he suspects user group meetings would likely take place before the end of the year.
Along with other commitments made in August, commissioners agreed to pay for signs along the road running through the area.
The county is waiting for the city to coordinate a meeting, and the road bridge department will follow the city’s lead on the locations for the signs, according to Renelle Lott, chief communications officer for Garfield County.
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