‘My world has been invaded by gunfire’
RIFLE — For the past 15 years, David Petechuk has owned a home bordering the West Rifle Creek State Wildlife Area northeast of town, which is also home to the West Rifle Creek Shooting Range. His neighbor, Cybele Sprayberry, has owned her home for the past 40 years.
Both of them are dismayed to see the impacts they are seeing to their lives with the completion of the improvements to the shooting range last fall by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The West Rifle Creek Shooting Range was established in 1975.
“That shooting range used to be an empty space with a beat-up old bench and an old backboard,” Petechuk said. “All you could here was a popping sound now and then.”
But with $150,000 in improvements in place, the range now has a new parking lot handicap accessibility, six shooting lanes and areas for handgun, archery and shotgun shooting. The park is open from dusk until dawn.
Petechuk and Sprayberry appeared for a meeting of the CPW commissioners Friday morning at the Ramada Inn in Glenwood Springs to express their concerns. They were joined by several other hunters and sportsmen who came out speak in favor of the range.
‘NOBODY CHECKED WITH US’
Petechuk pointed out that when CPW decided to improve the shooting range, officials met with the Rifle Correctional Center down the road, but did not ask the neighbors how they felt about it.
“I was told the Colorado Parks and Wildlife had checked with the detention center and that it was all right with them,” Petechuk said. “When Colorado Parks and Wildlife was checking because of the noise factor or safety issues is irrelevant. They both apply to us as well. Contacting the detention center and not us shows discrimination. What if hey had said ‘no’? What would you have done?”
Petechuk quoted the Colorado Wildlife Commission Policy and Procedure, B-15.5 rule that says: “It shall be the Colorado Wildlife Commission’s Policy to provide and maintain an adequate number of shooting ranges within ‘reasonable distance’ of population centers.”
He also pointed out that CPW officials had said the distance should be at least a quarter mile from a single-family home.
“What do you consider a reasonable distance?” Petechuk asked. “The first shooting stand is approximately 100-110 yards from my home. That translates into 440 yards. That is four times that this shooting stand is from my home.”
NOISE SHAKES THE HOUSE
Both Petechuk and Sprayberry invited the commissioners to come to their homes and listen to the sound of the shots from their front porches.
“Recently, my world has been invaded by gunfire on a daily basis,” Sprayberry said. “When I got outside on my front porch, every shot from the big guns reverberates for eight seconds.”
She then counted out eight seconds to give the commissioners an idea of how long it lasted.
“And this does not just disturb me, it disturbs the wildlife as well,” Sprayberry said. “I extend you an invitation to come and stand on my deck and listen.”
Added Petechuk, “You’ve damaged our property values. We are all in our 60s and we depend on our homes for our retirement. In our opinion, you didn’t take the time to exercise due diligence to come to our houses and see the impacts.”
Petechuk maintains that the existing range wasn’t improved, a whole new range was built with the $150,000. And with the new range, there is more activity.
“I was told the gates were going to be locked in the evening and the morning,” he said. “But they took the gates away. You essentially built a new rifle range from the ground up, but you could have placed the range somewhere else nearby. Nothing at this range was salvageable. Down the road from us, there’s no one.”
In closing, Petechuk and Sprayberry said the impacts of the new shooting range so close to their homes were having serious negative effects on their lives.
“This is a very serious issue here — both legally and morally,” Petechuk said. “Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We are asking that this range be shut down and relocated because the impact is to great that, frankly, we don’t see how you can possibly restore our way of our life prior to you building the new range.”
SUPPORTERS OF RANGE
The shooting range is used for hunters sighting in their scopes and target practice for firearms enthusiasts, along with local law enforcement agencies to practice for firearm training.
Several people, including Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, spoke up after Petechuk and Sprayberry.
“I use the range through all four seasons,” said Jay Haygood of Battlement Mesa. “I greatly support the CPW. I want to thank you for upgrading the Rifle Range from a muddy, dangerous place to where I average using it once a month to work on my marksmanship skills.”
Joe Hermann of Rifle, and vice-president with the Colorado Trapper’s Association, said the previous range was an unsafe place where people shot “every which direction.”
“Now it’s safe and they’re forced to shoot in one direction,” Hermann said. “I think it’s a great facility and I think it needs to stay.”
Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for CPW, said he was directed that more shooting ranges were needed in Colorado.
“I took that seriously,” Velarde said. “”We’re trying to provide a safe environment, not only for the hunters, but for the shooting public.”
Samson, who represents District 3, which includes the West Rifle Creek Rifle Shooting Range, said he could understand the feelings on both sides of the issue.
“I”ve had several people call me and I’ve had two to three conversations with (Petechuk and Sprayberry),” Samson said. “I don’t want to get into the middle of a big fight, but I went up there yesterday and spoke with a couple of guys that were shooting from New Castle and Rifle.” Samson said he realized that people who lived next to the range were affected by it, but suggested there was some way to mitigate some of the impacts.
“The vast majority of the people I’ve talked to are happy that it’s there. And there’s a lot of people who don’t know it’s there.”
No action was taken by the commission, but CPW Commission Chairman Bill Kane agreed that mitigation measures might be possible to address some of the complaints.
“We have sympathy on the part of the commission,” he said. “But it’s one of the better facility we have. My suggestion is that we revisit this issue. We’ll take no action at this time.”
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