County Commissioners discuss shooting range project

With the rumblings of rumors circulating around the community regarding projects surrounding the lake, the Butler County Commissioners welcomed Seth Turner, El Dorado State Park manager, on Tuesday morning in order to gain information about the upcoming range project.

“I’m here today to speak with the commissioners and give information regarding the public shooting rage at the El Dorado State Park,” began Turner. “We are currently in the planning and design stages of this upcoming project. We are interested in putting up a public shooting range in the park area.”

The department has heard many requests for a range or something similar in the park for the past several years.

“We currently receive 200-300 requests a year from those that utilize the state park,” explained Turner. “Because we have no facility in the county, they are always asking us: ‘Where can we go to shoot?’ There is a definite need for this type of project in this county.”

The department has also completed plenty of research for the project.

“We have been doing quite a bit of research for this,” explained Turner. “We have learned there are two types of ranges: open air and a baffled berm range. The state of Kansas currently has three other ranges in other parks. There are ranges in Cheney, Tuttle Creek and Hillsdale State Park. Those ranges have been in operation for a number of years and the department has gained some knowledge and background from them.”

The funding for the project will come solely from the Pittman-Robertson Act.

“The Pittman-Robertson Act is a 10 percent tax on ammunition and firearms,” explained Turner. “It is paid whenever those items are purchased and it goes directly back to the state. In the end, this will be a 1.1 million to 1.5 million dollar project.”

The project will help to educate the young and old who choose to utilize the park for gun safety.

“We need this project,” said Turner. “We want to bring young people into the facility where we can educate them on gun and firearm safety. We can introduce them to the safety aspects of this pastime in an environment where they can learn to do this safely. This project will be a public service. We don’t want people going out on a random county road and having some sort of accident. We want to put them in an area where we can control what’s happening.”

The range will not just be an open field with targets, the plan for the range is compiled of complicated figures and features designed to increase safety while decreasing noise.

“The range will be staffed by a minimum of two trained range safety officers,” said Turner. “We will have a 1:5 ranger to shooter ratio. That means, if 20 people show up to shoot and there are only two rangers, 10 people will have to wait. We will be stressing safety with this.”

He went on to explain the range will consist of a 56-position shooting range at various distances. It will feature a 15-yard, 10-yard and 500-yard distance range. There will be a shotgun area which will only be used for special events at the park. A 40’ by 80’ administrative building will be available on the site for education classes as well as conceal and carry classes. It will be a no blue sky baffled range. Berms will be placed on both sides of each distance range and along the back. The side berms will be eight feet in height and the berms along the back will be 20 feet high.

The commission began to show some concern about the neighbors and their views on the placement of the range.

“We at the department have continued our research on various aspects of the project,” said Turner. “One of our research topics has been noise. We have discovered it takes a 60-foot wide shelter belt to deflect the same amount of noise as a six-foot tall cement wall. We’re planning on placing a concrete wall on the south end between the firing line and the parking lot to help deflect noise. Originally the wall was not in the design, but after speaking with some of the neighbors, we furthered our research and found a solution to deal with some of the noise. We want the neighbors to be on board with this project. We don’t want to force it on anyone.”

More finite details for the range are still not determined, but Turner was able to give an idea of the hours and daily fees.

“We’re still talking about the overall hours of operation,” explained Turner. “Initially we will operating on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for weekend times. There will be no lighting in this facility, so this will not be an activity that will take place after dark. There will be a cost to use the range. The reason for it is for maintenance and upkeep of the range. Daily shooting will cost $10 and patrons will be able to shoot as much as they want for the day. There will also be an annual membership for $100 to $200 and it will cover everyone in the household.”

“I really like this a lot,” commented Commissioner Peggy Palmer. “People that have spoken to me about it seem really excited. There has been a good reaction to this publicly.”

Turner went on to explain the cost of the maintenance would be put primarily toward the maintaining of the baffles and berms as well as upkeep for the administration building. The baffled and bermed range, which is a USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) requirement for state parks, will help to uphold safety in the area.

“The primary purpose of the baffles is to hold the fired projectiles within the range,” explained Turner. “If you get someone that is inexperienced and shoots high, it will contain those bullets or projectiles and keep them from injuring someone in the park.”

The department even completed extensive decibel testing while doing their research.

“There were decibel readings completed at the site,” said County Administrator Will Johnson. “They weren’t as loud as you might thing.”

“We took readings at the 14 different calibers at six different locations,” said Turner. “There is going to be an increase in noise when the wind isn’t blowing, but keep in mind the readings were done with no baffles or berms. My goal is to drive the sound down to where it is the least noticeable it can be.”

The project could be completed fairly quickly.

“If everything goes right, we could possibly be opening the facility within the next two years,” explained Turner. “We are just flying with this project. Everything is moving much faster than I expected with a project of this magnitude.”

The commission also:

• received Mike Lowry, AGH, to present 2013 Butler County Fiscal Audit.

• discussed the purchase of three user rights of Nightingale Notes clinic management software program on behalf of Sumner County Health Department, including setup fees and training and tabled the request for further discussion at a later date.

• approved the solicitation of bids by the Public Works Department for the annual purchase of tires for multiple departments and liquid asphalt for the Highway Department.

• approved the estimated costs for County constructed RAP Hot-Mix overlay projects proposed for SW 20th Street from SW Ohio Street to SW Haverhill Road and for SW Butler Road from SW 210th Street to SW 190th Street.

• approved the right-of-way dedications related to the SW Shumway Road ox culvert and roadway realignment project located east of Augusta.

• completed a work session on the EMS ambulance financing.


Kari Adams can be reached at