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.
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
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 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.
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