Shooter comments could sway decision
Published 4:28 pm Monday, February 6, 2012
Area hunting and shooting enthusiasts will be glad to know there is a plan under way to construct a new outdoor shooting range on the Conecuh National Forest just 20 miles east of Brewton.
The long-established range located 15 miles away from the proposed site has been temporarily closed for maintenance – since last January. High public demand for a range, coupled with the decision to not reopen the existing range for firearms use because of
safety concerns, has prompted U.S. Forest Service to make a new plan.
“We believe our proposal to construct a new range is the best option
for providing a quality range that complies with nationally-recognized safety standards for outdoor shooting ranges,” said District Ranger Tim Mersmann.
Now, public comment is being sought to determine not only an alternate
use for the site, but also on the new proposed range site near the
intersection of Escambia County Roads 11 and 4, he said. That would
put the new range at the location of an old borrow pit, about 21 miles
east of Brewton and 29 miles southwest of Andalusia
“Forest Service resource specialists have assessed the impacts of the
proposed shooting range on forest resources; however, public input is
needed to ensure that all issues relevant to the proposal have been
identified,” he said.
The proposed range is described as “a high-quality facility designed
to accommodate rifles, handguns and shotguns, with 100-, 50- and
25-yard firing lanes and an area for shooting clays,” Mersmann said.
“The new Conecuh Shooting Range would provide (many) shooting
opportunities and be similar in design to the South Sandy Range on the
Oakmulgee Ranger District,” he said. “If a decision is made to
implement this proposal, design and construction of the new facility
would incorporate NRA guidelines for outdoor ranges.”
He said the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries will
partner with the Forest Service to construct the proposed 20-station
shooting range, parking lot and access road.
Once construction is completed, the Forest Service would then be
responsible for the facility’s operation and maintenance, and to help
defray those costs, a “modest” user fee structure would likely be
implemented, Mersmann said. On a comparable scale, the fee per day on
the South Sandy Range is $3 per vehicle and those with state hunting
licenses are exempt from payment.
Local residents have until Feb. 27 to submit comments on the proposal,
and a final decision on the project will not be made until after the
consideration of public comments and the environmental effects
analysis for the proposal is completed.
Additionally, possible alternatives for the Hwy. 137 site are being
considered, such as an archery range or outdoor classroom. Residents
are encouraged to also submit comments on a use for that site.
Merrsmann said a formal site use proposal will be forthcoming for that
project as well.
Anyone with questions or seeking more information prior to commenting
may contact project leader Daks Kennedy at 334-222-2555, ext. 112, or
planning coordinator Debbie Russell at ext. 106.
Comments may then be hand-delivered or mailed to “Tim Mersmann, Acting
Conecuh District Ranger, 24481 AL Highway 55, Andalusia, AL 36420;”
faxed to 334-222-6485; emailed to southern-alabama-conecuh@fs.
or phoned in to 334-222-2555.