SANTA CLARA – Mountain bikers, all-terrain vehicle riders and hikers mixing with recreational shooting is an accident waiting to happen that local officials in Santa Clara are trying to fix.
The South Hills area of Santa Clara has traditionally been an informal target shooting and off-road vehicle area but is now seeing a lot more usage from mountain bikers and other recreationists – increasing the chances of someone getting hit by a stray bullet.
The problem may be solved with a new shooting area located away from the increasingly popular South Hills area of Santa Clara.
The South Hills area provides access to several heavily used mountain bike trails such as Cove Wash and Barrel Roll and connects to the Green Valley Gap trails in neighboring St. George. The area also is drawing more hikers, trail runners and dog walkers.
“They’re out there shooting and we’re riding right along next to them,” mountain biker Robin Kirker said, “and it’s scary because you’ll see people that are out there that are shooting directly across a trail, and they don’t realize that there’s a trail there – they don’t see anybody and they just (shoot).”
Kirker has been riding mountain bikes for 15 years; she has also been a competitive shooter.
“The thing is, when you mountain bike, you’re going fast so you’re popping up, like, all of a sudden. So it’s very concerning when you’re out there, you’re hearing the shooting on the other side of the hill and you’re wondering when you pop around the corner if you’re going to get hit.”
A new location for shooting is needed in the area, Bureau of Land Management Recreation Planner Dave Kiel said. Kiel has been part of the planning process along with representatives of Washington County and Santa Clara.
“There’s a lot of target shooting that happens just outside of Santa Clara,” Kiel said.
“We want to move that away from town, that target shooting, because it’s in the vicinity of the mountain bike trails, and the ATVers there, it’s a problem,” Kiel said. “We have to get the shooting out of there.”
City, county and BLM officials are looking at two locations just outside the city limits near Stucki Springs, Kiel said.
When the plan is finalized, county officials will apply for transfer of the land under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. To become eligible under the Act the county would submit a development plan, and after a period of time, the property title would transfer to the county.
Santa Clara City officials have been talking about establishing a new shooting area for several years, City Manager Ed Dickie said, but have been seriously working on the proposed shooting area for about a year and a half. Santa Clara will be responsible for maintaining the access road.
There’s a lot of interest in the South Hills, Dickie said, and a lot going on there. Santa Clara is planning an off-road park near the Cove Wash trailhead where mountain bike events could be staged, and has already hosted the True Grit Epic race.
“So we’re just trying to think of a way to create a place where shooters can go and alleviate a lot of shooting closer to the trails,” Dickie said.
The next step in the process is the formulation of a master plan for the shooting area, Washington County Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said. The plan will be presented to the National Rifle Association to make sure that it is safe; then the plan will be presented to the BLM.
The county will help by providing heavy equipment needed to upgrade the road to the new site and to help shape berms to create a safe shooting area, Washington County Administrator Dean Cox said.
“The county commissioners feel that this is indeed something that is very necessary and they are supportive of the effort,” Cox said.
The new shooting area will most likely not be a formal shooting range and no date has been announced for its completion.
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