Snohomish County Parks’ plans for a new shooting range near Sultan continue to edge forward.
A public meeting was held in late July to talk about the proposed range which is being planned for a parcel of county-owned property located directly off Sultan Basin Road. Approximately 70 members of the Sky Valley community filled the Sultan High School commons; some of whom brought concerns about the proposal and others who attended the meeting to convey their support.
The 146-acre parcel is located approximately 6-1/2 miles northeast of the city of Sultan. The land is primarily surrounded by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land as well as some state forestland.
Before the project could really move forward, the property had to be re-conveyed to Snohomish County Parks from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. It was a process that began in 2002 and finally came to fruition in 2011.
“It took a pretty significant effort to get the re-conveyance from the state,” explained Snohomish County Parks Director Tom Teigen. “We did that re-conveyance based on the fact that we were honoring a commitment to look at a shooting park.”
Teigen explained that, while the county supports all forms of recreation, they are not necessarily experts when it comes to the planning and development of shooting ranges. Additionally, the county has limited funding available to support all of its parks and recreation facilities. Teigen stated that, in order for the shooting range in Sultan to truly progress, both public-private and public-nonprofit partnerships will need to be cultivated and utilized.
“We are going to be looking for folks to co-invest in the site,” said Teigen, who clarified that the support needed from both private supporters in the community as well as nonprofit organizations will be necessary to assist in building, maintaining and operating the site.
While many attendees of the meeting were in support of the proposed shooting range, members of the nearby Lake Bronson Club Family Nudist Park voiced concerns. Both Earl Caulkins and Star Conrad from the Lake Bronson Club have joined the Sportsman’s Park Ad Hoc committee to better present their ideas and more closely track the progress of the shooting range.
The Sportsman’s Park Ad Hoc committee is made up of individuals with an interest in the project; both range enthusiasts as well as those who have concerns. Other members include ex-Sultan City Councilmember Steve Slawson, Sultan Police Chief Monte Beaton, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeff Brand, Snohomish County Fire District #5 Chief Merlin Halverson, Sultan resident Toni Reading, Sultan business owner Bubba Deach and several others.
So far there have been three Ad Hoc meetings; one on July 28, one in June, and one at the end of 2013.
Thus far, the county has been working in collaboration with a landscape architecture firm called Bruce Dees and Associates, as well as shooting range planning and design expert Lorin Kramer of the Arizona-based design firm Kramer One, Inc.
Concerns raised during the public comment portion of the meeting included risk of ricocheted rounds; noise issues; environmental damage to nearby wells, lakes and streams; lead in the soil; protecting the property’s wetlands and sensitive areas; traffic impacts; parking and transportation; the scale of the project and the fact that the Environmental Impact Statement that was done on the property was completed in 2002.
This is problematic to Ad Hoc Committee member James Barlow, who lives on Sultan Basin Road and is one of the project’s closest neighbors. He stated that he feels the 2002 EIS is out-of-date and needs to be redone.
Many folks came forward to show their support of the project.
Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick has been a long-time supporter of the idea of a county shooting range in Sultan.
“I want to take a minute to thank the county for all the work they’ve done on this project,” said Eslick. “Sometimes, it’s all about the having the right people in the right place to get the momentum that we need.”
Enthusiasts for the shooting park cited the reasons for their support including positive economic impacts; illegal shooting mitigation; educational opportunities to teach the youth of the Sky Valley safe gun handling practices and techniques; positive economic impacts that would be generated by formal competitions; having a safe place to engage in shooting both as a sport and as a hobby and having an archery range which could be used for competitive archery events.
Mt. Index Riversites residents Brad and Cj Holmes both declared their support for the shooting range. Brad asked if there would be a way for volunteers to join forces and help build the facility. Cj stated that she would prefer to be involved in the fundraising aspect of the project.
“Anyone who has driven up any of the forest service roads or the Sultan Basin Road can attest to what happens when we do not have a facility like this,” said Cj. “I too want to be a part of it.”
Holmes was referring to the significant amount of debris and refuse left behind by illegal shooters.
So far, the preliminary program for the shooting range includes a regulation archery range; two multiple-bay pistol ranges with paper targets; a rifle range; a shotgun skeet range; a range for shotgun trap; a 50 to 100 yard black powder range; a hunter safety course and support facilities.
Preliminary support facilities include parking; shuttle bus service for large events; permanent restroom facilities; a pro shop; a kitchen; a caretaker residence and a PA system.
Preliminary design criteria priorities include minimizing the sound heard by the facility’s neighbors to the west; minimizing all other impacts on the facility’s neighbors; elimination of lead contamination of groundwater and wetlands; confining the shooting and bullets to the shooting range area exclusively; providing ADA accommodations; using sustainable design strategies; examining volunteer opportunities for range enthusiasts who want to help building the facility and accommodating high school team events.
A tentative timeline has been established by the architecture firm which includes spending the upcoming months of August through October researching site conditions, permit requirements and environmental impacts.
The team will then develop several plan alternatives for the design of the facility which will be presented to the Ad Hoc Committee so that they can determine the most preferable and universally-accommodating alternative. After that, a preliminary master plan will be developed and presented at another public meeting.
The next public meeting is tentatively scheduled for December 2.
After additional public comment is received, a final master plan will be developed. The final presentation of the master plan could take place as soon as January of 2015.