Officials share plans for safety, reopening of shooting sports park; special meeting

ST. GEORGE — At a special meeting of the Washington County Commission, commissioners and other representatives discussed their decision to approve the recommendation of a temporary partial closure of Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, outlined safety concerns that initiated the closure and what is being done to reopen the park.

The meeting included members of the Washington County Commission, county and city officials, representatives of the Shooting Sports Park Special Service District and interested parties.

Washington County Administrator Dean Cox addressed a packed county commission chamber, reassuring many board members and enthusiasts that it is Washington County’s intention to reopen a safer Southern Utah Shooting and Sports Park. Due to an increase in police reports, among other things, the Commission felt it was necessary to initiate a partial closure of the park, giving the Board time to enlist the help of professional range management specialists, Cox said.

Practical shooting at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, Hurricane, Utah, circa 2012 | Photo courtesy of Ken Nelson, president of the Southern Utah Pistol & Revolver Club, St. George News
Practical shooting at the Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park, Hurricane, Utah, circa 2012 | Photo courtesy of Ken Nelson, president of the Southern Utah Pistol & Revolver Club, St. George News

Background

The Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park is located just past the Washington County Regional Park, or fairgrounds, in Hurricane, and is home to six recreational shooting venues; as listed on its Website they include the following: Purgatory Clays, Red Cliffs Rifle/Pistol Range, Cowboy Action (Dixie Desperados), Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range,  Archery (RedRock Bowmen) and Blackpowder (High Valley Mountain Men).

Washington County was alerted to problems with the shooting sports park when law enforcement voiced their concerns of reported errant bullet strikes and rounds found in residents’ yards, siding and mailboxes. Rounds and fragments were also discovered in various locations around the nearby subdivision and in the surrounding area, Hurricane City Police Lt. Jerod Brisk said.

Reports of bullets and casings reportedly found in different residential locations created safety issues and the increase in the number and escalation of these reports caused them great concern, including bullet strikes on state Route 9, Brisk said.

There were three reports of bullet strikes on SR-9; the last reported shot lodged a bullet near the framing of a truck window after shattering it, Brisk said.  At that point, the Hurricane City Police Department appealed to Washington County advising of the risk to public safety and recommending the Southern Utah Shooting and Sports Park be temporarily closed.

A Special Board of Directors Meeting was held  Nov. 20 at the Washington County Administration Building during which it was decided that immediate partial closure of the Shooting and Sports Park was necessary until the safety issues were resolved.  Previously scheduled events would be allowed under certain conditions:

  • Close supervision by certified field safety officer
  • Venues will forward a list of scheduled events through the end of December 2015, which will be forwarded to law enforcement

Current Agenda

To understand the safety issues that are being addressed, the National Rifle Association was contacted for assistance and is submitting proposals which should arrive early next week.

Another proposal should be here next week from MT2 Firing Range Specialists located in Colorado, Cox said. MT2 has a current contract with the Utah Department of Transportation to provide services for a range in Ogden and has contracts nationwide.

Preliminary research is being conducted by this company using Google Earth and other tools to assess the range’s design and safety risks, he said, which will enable them to draw up a proposal to address those issues.  The benefit of having two proposals from different companies that specialize in range safety and design gives Washington County more than one option to choose from.

Funding for the testing and analysis was discussed as well.

“We have some funds set aside in the county right now; and we can use those funds to pay for the experts to come out and evaluate,” Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said.

The Shooting Sports Park is closed pending a safety investigation, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 28, 2015 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News
The Shooting Sports Park is closed pending a safety investigation, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 28, 2015 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

The Board also determined that they need better access and more controlled access to the different venues. There have been problems in the past with people climbing walls and shooting late at night when the range is closed, or vandalizing targets, Cox said.

Different areas in the Shooting and Sports Park have been measured to have fences and gates installed that would allow each venue more control over their space, and the ability to secure it.

The fences would also benefit shooters by providing a clear direction to each venue, which reduces confusion in trying to find them. Bids were requested for the fencing and were due Friday.

It is uncertain whether a private company or the Department of Public Works will install the fencing, which would save the county money, Cox said.

“We have road crews that have heavy equipment, where we can immediately go out there and make improvements too,” Renstrom said.

Once proposals are received, and after analysis from ballistics experts and designers, the board can take steps to make each venue and the sports park as a whole safer, he said, and get it reopened as soon as possible.

“There are things that we can improve that will enhance the safety of not only visitors of the shooting sports park but also the residents who live in the surrounding areas,” Cox said.  “Obviously that’s something we take very seriously and we want to do,” Renstrom said.

“We sat down … and we said, our goal is to open this as soon as we can, fast as we can, to get that back open to the public,” Renstrom said following Wednesday’s meeting.

“We’re all on the same team, with the same goal,” Cox said.

Resources

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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7 Comments

  • Not_So_Much December 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

    For anyone who has never been to the SUSSP it may be difficult to separate the individual venues. Each venue is operated with it’s own organization, methods and rules. While there are always possibilities for safety improvements, the degree to which this is needed varies widely. In my opinion Red Cliffs Rifle and Pistol Range is among the safest ranges you’ll ever visit. NRA trained Range Safety Officers (RSO) walk on the straight line of 24 benches. Shooting is orientated in a safe direction is one element of this venue’s commitment to safety.

    The range itself is constructed to be safe. In front of the shooting benches (which are covered) are 3 rows of baffles (tall metal ‘walls’) designed to stop any stray shots or ricochets. Downrange are dirt hills (berms) designed to absorb bullet impacts. In the last two years the all volunteer association spent thousands of dollars to remove large rocks and generally improve these berms, all for safety.

    There are six metal targets surrounded by railroad ties for pistol shooters to enjoy at 25 yards. In addition two metal gongs are available for rifle shooters to aim at, which have tall berms on three sides. Most shooting is at paper targets taped to cardboard and placed either in fixed metal frames or clamped to portable wood frames. The height of portable stands varies with position and height of each individual person.

    The public is advised with a sign to wait at the front gate for a Range Safety Officer before entering the range. This is so firearms are brought in and handled safely as well as checking for eye and ear protection which is required of all. The RSO oversee safety rules which are in place to ensure safety on the firing line (yes, there is a yellow line which shooters are instructed to stand at). The public address system is used to announce when shooting may begin (going hot) and when a ceasefire is called (going cold). Specific wording for announcements are used to keep everyone safe. An RSO checks every firearm to be sure each is empty before anyone goes down range during a ceasefire. Participants are instructed to not touch anything on their bench or any firearm while the range is cold (ceasefire). There is a red line to stand behind when a ceasefire is called.

    In some ways, it would be like golf course 123 is operated in such a way that nearby windows are being shattered all too often. The authorities then decide to close all golf courses in Washington County until changes are made based on expert opinions. This happens even though no windows were broken anywhere near the other golf courses which were built properly to avoid this. That just shouldn’t happen. Only course 123 should be closed.

    There is more to share on this topic such as supervised youth events and hunters education classes and much more. I urge you to watch for the reopening of the Red Cliffs Rifle & Pistol Range and then come out and see for yourself. The Red Cliffs Range offers such a fantastic alternative compared to going out to the desert. It is truly an injustice for it to be closed when, in my opinion, the actions of someone shooting somewhere other than Red Cliffs Rifle and Pistol Range is causing problems.

    • Proud Rebel December 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      I agree, however closing the range gives the ‘crats and ‘ticians a chance to brag to the sheeple that they really are “doing something to protect the public.”

    • fun bag December 6, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      BLAH BLA BLAH this Not_So_Much guy blathers on like a moron. If ur gona write somethin so long at least make it worth reading. i see ur same crap on every article about this. give it a rest already!

  • Rainbow Dash December 6, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Close a shooting range and the county commission holds a special session on how to re-open quickly. Meanwhile, in Hildale, pedophilia and corruption run rampant through the streets.

    • RealMcCoy December 7, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Yes, but you can shoot a target. Currently, you cannot shoot a pedophile. They are a protected class.

      • sagemoon December 7, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        LOL

      • .... December 7, 2015 at 10:27 pm

        Really ? StupidMcdork . so Im just wondering is that like supposed to be like uh . ha ha or sumptin ? Yawwwwwwwn

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