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County partners with Army for shooting range

In November, Imad Karaki, director of support services for El Paso County, unveiled plans for a supervised shooting range open to the public seven days a week. The range will be developed through a partnership between the U.S. Army at Fort Carson and the county.Karaki presented the plan at a November work session of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners.He said the BOCC asked him to find a place for a public shooting range after the U.S. Forest Service closed Rampart Range ñ the county’s only public shooting range ñ because of a fatality in 2009.Since the closure, there has been a dramatic increase in legal, recreational shooting activity along forest service roads, said Tom Healy, a law enforcement officer for the Forest Service.Mount Herman Road in Pike National Forest has become a popular shooting location, with as many as 100 shooters a day on weekends, said John Ennis from Friends of Monument Preserve, a volunteer arm of the Forest Service.ìWe used to have Boy Scouts help with trail maintenance, but now it’s too dangerous,î Ennis said.After a fruitless two-year search of county-owned property, Karaki connected with Col. Robert McLaughlin, garrison commander at Fort Carson.McLaughlin received approval from the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, for the Army to partner with El Paso County to develop the shooting range on federal land next to Fort Carson.ìIt was no small undertaking,î McLaughlin said.The location of the proposed shooting range is off Interstate 25 at exit 132, just before the entrance to Fort Carson at gate 20, Karaki said.Having a shooting range where Fort Carson soldiers can fire personal weapons is important, McLaughlin said.The proposed range, named the Cheyenne Mountain Sports Shooting Complex, will move forward in three phases, Karaki said.During the first phase, three 600-foot rifle ranges and three pistol ranges will be built. The six ranges will have a combined total of 90 shooting positions and will be separated by berms 20 feet high. The existing road to the proposed location will be improved for safety, and there will be portable toilet facilities.The total cost of the first phase is estimated at $750,000, including in-kind contributions from the county and other community partners, Karaki said.The second phase, which the Army has not yet approved, involves the construction of classrooms, a restaurant and a shop where ammunition and targets can be purchased.The third phase, which hasnít been approved either, includes constructing six trap and skeet shotgun ranges.ìWe want the facility to be family-friendly,î Karaki said, adding there will be no membership fee and no requirement to register guns at the range. ìWe want this to be a first class, competition-grade facility, so it really will become a destination for the community.îA new nonprofit foundation, A Soldierís Friend Foundation, will fund the second and third phases. The foundation will seek donations from public and corporate entities.ìEvery dime that goes into the foundation will go toward building this facility. Any additional monies will be used to support soldiers and their families,î Karaki said.The complex adds to the need for hunter education classes and expanded space for the sheriffís deputies.Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1949, is required to take a hunter education class, said David Lovell, assistant regional manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s southeast region.Until the complex is built, instructors are limited in the skills they can teach. Lovell plans to improve the hunter education class by training students at the range.The complex solves a problem for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies currently train and qualify at a range that’s too small, Karaki said. One of the complex’s six ranges will be dedicated for use by the Sheriff’s Office Monday through Friday.Sheriff Terry Maketa said before Rampart Range closed, he took his son there. ìIt wasn’t a quality experience because there were so many shooters,î he said. ìAt times, it was almost chaos. It became a dumping ground for unwanted materials.îWhen he became sheriff, Maketa said he sent crews to clean up Rampart Range, but there was just too much stuff.ìIt was a tragedy to close Rampart Range, but it moved the discussion of a public shooting range to the forefront,î Maketa said.Not everyone was happy with the proposed complex.During the public comment period, Ron Coleman said, ìIf this is an attempt to close dispersed shooting down, I’m against it.ìI’m all for a range, but I think people should have the right to pick a spot. In my opinion, they’ve (the Forest Service) intentionally let things deteriorate in the national forest so we’re in the problem we’re in. They have not used their power to make things safe.îColeman also said heís tired of bicyclists on forest trails complaining about hearing gun shots.Commissioner Amy Lathen reassured Coleman. ìThis is not an attempt to stop dispersed shooting,î she said.On Nov. 15, the BOCC unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a Memorandum of Agreement between El Paso County and the Fort Carson Directorate of Morale, Welfare, and Recreation to establish the sport shooting complex.The commissioners also approved a resolution to partner with San Isabel National Forest and the Colorado Department of Wildlife, as well as a resolution authorizing the establishment of a nonprofit corporation to form ìA Soldier’s Friend Foundation.î

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