Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) hosted a community meeting Monday to discuss the Basalt shooting range, which has been closed since the Lake Christine Fire ignited there on July 3. Some community members in Basalt have called for the range to be relocated or closed permanently, but others would like to see the range reopened as soon as possible.
The first rifle hunting season, a limited hunt of black bear, begins Sept. 2; rifle hunting of moose, elk and deer begins Oct. 1. CPW officials said they hope to have a short-term resolution in place so that hunters can prepare, but they assured the crowd that they would not make a decision until after a thorough public process.
Perry Will, area wildlife manager for CPW, noted that it’s legal to fire guns on public lands. With the range closed, he said he’s had reports of people using firearms on public lands across the valley.
Some Basalt residents remain concerned about safety at the shooting range. The Lake Christine Fire is the second fire to ignite at the gun range. A small fire in 2012 was started by a discarded cigarette. There are complaints that the range is noisy and unsafe; there isn’t a supervisor or ranger on site.
Stacey Craft, a Basalt resident who spoke on behalf of those who want the range moved, said there are environmental concerns, too, about lead deposits from bullets flowing downhill into rivers and streams. Craft and others say the range has outgrown its current location, and they want to see CPW look into alternate locations.
At Monday’s meeting, people made suggestions on eight different topics, including location, interim operations, fire mitigation and rules. Those ideas ran the gamut; in the location category, for example, people suggested everything from simply “move it” to “keep it where it is,” as well as more specific ideas like, “install fire hydrants at the current range.”
Some sportsmen want to see a bigger range, too. The Basalt range is limited to 100 yards; many hunters want to sight their rifles for longer distances.
At a meeting Tuesday, Basalt Town Council is scheduled to consider a resolution that provides both short and long-term recommendations about the shooting range to CPW. The resolution suggests short-term changes including limiting operating hours, ensuring that there is always someone trained in gun and fire safety on duty and requiring people to sign in. The long term recommendations are that CPW research two alternatives: either relocate the range — which is the preferred course for staff and council at this point — or improve safety, reduce noise, and mitigate environmental hazards.