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Lyons Trustees Hear Opposition, Support for Boulder County Shooting Range

December 4, 2018 GMT

Two Lyons residents clashed in their Monday comments to the Board of Trustees regarding the prospect of Boulder County buying land to build a public outdoor shooting range just east of town.

During an update on the shooting range initiative by county officials, Lyons Trustees questioned how the potential facility — which could be the first of its kind in the county by allowing public shooting without paying membership fees — would maintain the town’s attractiveness to existing residents and newcomers.

Lifelong Lyons resident LaVern Johnson came out against the range, citing concerns about the safety of residents in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood, which is almost adjacent to the proposed shooting range site, but on a separate plane from it due to the elevated ridge on which housing sits.

“I want to ask you to listen and say no,” Johnson said to trustees.

But how much control over the ultimate decision on the gun range Lyons officials would have is up in the air, since county officials are negotiating with cement giant Cemex to purchase a parcel that was formerly a quarry from the company southwest of U.S. 36 and Colo. 66 that lies just outside the town in unincorporated Boulder County.

“Specifically the safety of it shouldn’t be a concern,” Apple Valley Road resident Nicholas Sowders told trustees in support of the proposal. “If it does somehow manage to have a projectile go over the wall of the quarry, there is not going to be an issue of harm because at that point, it will have lost so much velocity it won’t hurt anybody. At the most it would be like a piece of hail.”

Surprising results

Garry Sanfaçon, who leads special projects for Boulder County, said the county is trying to prompt Cemex leaders to at least sign a letter of intent to sell the quarry, and finalize the purchase price later, so officials can start a land use application for the range that would have to move through the county’s review process without yet owning the parcel.

The county has been motivated to explore opening outdoor, long-distance shooting ranges to the public by the U.S. Forest Service promising to close 80,000 acres of national forest in Boulder County to shooting unrelated to hunting.

The feds have agreed to close up to a quarter-million acres of land between Larimer, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Boulder counties to such shooting, but the ban on that activity in each segment of national forest is dependent on the corresponding county opening a public shooting range.

Boulder County officials have walked through the quarry and in the nearby neighborhood with Lyons trustees and listened to tests of the loudness of various firearms shot in the area.

“I am hesitant to speak for members of the Lyons Board of Trustees, but I think it is safe to say that they were surprised by the results of the sound testing — it was very difficult to hear the shots in the quarry from any of the places around town where we tested,” Boulder County Commissioners’ Deputy Michelle Krezek said late last month. “The topography of a quarry ... and the traffic noise on U.S. 36 and Colo. 66 provides substantial sound buffering.”

Mayor Pro Tem Barney Dreistadt expressed a desire for more sound testing, which Sanfaçon assured would happen, while also promising a public hearing on the shooting range would take place in Lyons before the land use application is submitted for the range, if the county comes to a sale agreement with Cemex.

“This is fairly unique for a shooting range. Sound reverberates around here very differently than in a flat area. If it comes here and it doesn’t work, we will have created a very serious problem. We take a risk with this potentially,” Mayor Connie Sullivan said.

Adequate data?

The differing points of view expressed by Johnson and Sowders mirrored the main reasons sides have been taken on the gun range’s potential arrival in discussions in town circles for weeks before Monday’s meeting.

Residents opposed to the possible project have questioned how the range will be made safe and quiet enough to be located so close to homes, while those in favor of its arrival have cited the need for safer shooting sites than the national forest land that is becoming more crowded with homes and daytime users — and therefore less safe for shooting that is unregulated in its direction.

“I used to go shoot up there (in national forest) a lot. It was nice to shoot up there, but it wasn’t a controlled area, so you had people shooting a lot of different directions,” Sowder said. “The quarry would be a great place to go shooting, because you have one (direction) of fire, one area to shoot and it’s going to be a controlled area.”

Lyons resident Robert Brakenridge questions why Boulder County should pay for the development of a shooting range for what he views as a U.S. Forest Service issue.

He also is opposed to the gun range negotiations because he isn’t convinced it would solve the issues with shooting in the forest if it were to get built, and cites myriad news accounts of serious and fatal injuries caused by accidents at gun ranges across the country in calling such a facility unsafe.

“Do they have any sort of data whatsoever showing that building a shooting range will solve the problem in the forest?” Brakenridge said.

While county officials hope the closures to non-hunting shooting on national forest land would reduce complaints to the sheriff’s department regarding gunfire in the area — which has prompted many trips by deputies into the mountains only to find nothing amiss with the cited gunfire — Undersheriff Tom Sloan last week acknowledged the closures are unlikely to immediately or permanently solve the issue.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .