Basalt council to exam task force’s recommendation to expand hours at CPW shooting range
The Aspen Times
The Basalt Town Council is preparing to make some noise about the potential for more noise coming from the shooting range operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
In a brief conversation at a regular meeting Tuesday night, council members complimented safety measures recommended at the Basalt shooting range by a citizens’ task force appointed by CPW. But there was also dissatisfaction expressed about a recommendation to increase the hours of operation at the facility less than one-half mile from downtown Basalt.
Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer said the proposed hours are “excessive.”
The public portion of the range is currently opened Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and Thursday, though a shooting club and commercial users have access all week.
The task force proposed breaking hours into three seasons. During summers, the range would be open seven days per week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In winter, it would be open five days per week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In shoulder seasons, it would be open six days per week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Operations at the shooting range have been a hot topic in the midvalley since the Lake Christine Fire broke out there July 3. Two users fired tracer ammunition that ignited dry brush. Tracer ammo is banned at the range.
After the fire, CPW hosted a couple of meetings to discuss range operations, then appointed a six-member task force to take a deep dive into the issues. The group unveiled its ideas Monday. Many proposed safety measures have been endorsed by CPW and some completed. The biggest step is hiring a seasonal range safety officer.
The proposal to increase hours was defended as a way to prevent target shooters from heading into the national forest and other public lands surrounding the valley.
The hours are considerably more than what the Basalt council envisioned. It passed a resolution in August asked CPW to limit the hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and close it on Sunday and Monday to give residents a respite from noise. However, CPW owns the range and has the lone ability to make the rules. The town government can only make requests.
The council didn’t settle a position on the proposed hours on Tuesday. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said a formal meeting with advance notice would be held at a later date to be decided to allow citizen participation. After that meeting, the town government will submit formal comments to wildlife agency.
Councilman Auden Schendler said he wants the town to help CPW pursue a facility that would move the rifle and pistol range inside to reduce a large portion of the noise. The task force noted that goal is daunting because a multi-million construction cost plus ongoing maintenance and operations expenses.
But Schendler said the town should press for the option and help with fundraising.
“Let’s keep being progressive on this,” he said.
Basalt resident and shooting range critic Michael Kerr attended Tuesday’s council meeting and spoke during an open comment period. He dismissed the task force as a “dog and pony” show and said CPW has a history of being a poor neighbor through its operations at the shooting range.
“In my mind they’re not a friend at all. In fact, they’re an enemy,” Kerr said.
Past meeting have shown the shooting range has hundreds of supporters that will lobby for continued operations at the Basalt facility.
CPW officials said the task force’s recommendation on the hours will go to the agency’s regional office for administrative review. Regional officials may choose to forward the issue to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
People on all sides of the issue are encouraged to offer feedback to CPW on Basalt shooting range issues. A survey can be found at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfC4HtQwUAfy1pE0sMvC3W_fbdsCYzl4L9i1nRh4NVlZ1o1rQ/viewform.
Comments are due by June 20, though town officials will try to get CPW to extend the deadline.
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