The nation's sixth highest-ranking county for gun ownership is getting an outdoor shooting range.
Long overdue, says Craig Chellis, past president of the Teller County Shooting Society.
"Teller County is prime for a gun range, and it's been a long time in coming," he said. "We have so many hunters and recreational shooters that it will be nice to have a safe place close by."
Since incorporating four years ago, the nonprofit membership association has cobbled together enough support and private funding to construct the first phase of a multimillion-dollar project.
Gold Camp Shooting Sports Center broke ground last month near Victor. By the end of August, in time for hunting season target practice and scope sighting, the range should open to members, Chellis said.
With closures of informal shooting areas on public land in the Pikes Peak region due to cited misuse - Rampart Range Road two years ago, and this week, Mount Herman Road - demand for a nearby spot to shoot is strong, said Kathleen Michel. She co-chairs the Teller County Friends of the National Rifle Association and co-owns Rocky Mountain Weaponry, a gun shop near Divide.
"It's not that you can't find a place in the national forest, but it gets so crowded with ATVers, hikers, campers," she said. "A lot of us are very excited about the range. It's taken a while to get through all the zoning and permitting and addressing safety and noise concerns. People can't wait for it to open."
The site, off Colorado 67 and Teller County 81 near Gillette Flats, will feature a 100-yard combined handgun and rifle range with 20 firing positions and a shotgun range for sporting clays.
Three-sided enclosures will buffer noise and allow for practically year-round use, Chellis said. Liners in the backstops will capture small lead particles so they don't seep into the water table.
Ranges will be separately bermed, which involves heavy excavation work, he said. A local company, Open Range Construction, is the general contractor.
The area's Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co. donated $150,000 for design, permitting and engineering costs of the new range.
The mining company also donated 155 acres of the former Lazy S Ranch's 1,300 acres to the club to build the range on what has been a pasture.
The land is worth $500,000 to $600,000, said Jane Mannon, spokeswoman for the AngloGold Ashanti Corp. in Colorado, which owns the local mining company.
The mine approached the club about a donation of land shortly after it formed, she said.
"We were looking for something that we as a company could help with that would have an economic impact on the community and bring people to Victor, so they'll perhaps stay and spend a little money," she said.
The mining company considered several locations on land it owns, including property closer to downtown Victor, where its administration offices are, but settled on the Lazy S Ranch. The company bought the land because the former owner was considering developing the land for housing, which Mannon said would have presented problems for mining operations.
The land the mine turned over to the club includes a buffer zone to allow cattle and horses to continue grazing, Mannon said.
"We feel like this encourages people to shoot and engage in the sport in a safe manner and an environmentally responsible way," she said.
The Teller County Friends of the National Rifle Association, a local chapter of the national organization, donated $19,400 for the construction.
The range will be open to members of the Teller County Shooting Society and their guests. Basic membership starts at $150 per year, and covers spouses and children younger than 18. Members will get a key to the gate, Chellis said, after being trained on course safety.
The club plans to offer educational events and workshops, along with opportunities for the public and youth in 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other groups that offer marksmanship to use the range.
As funding becomes available, nine more ranges are planned for the Gold Camp Shooting Sports Center, including a 500-yard high-powered rifle range. Full completion costs are estimated at $2 million.
According to City-Data.com, 52.3 percent of Teller County residents keep firearms in their homes, ranking the county at the sixth highest in the country. El Paso County comes in 56th on the list, with 33.5 percent of the population owning firearms.
"It's a real fun sport," Michel says. "I grew up in Alaska, where it's second nature there. The general consensus here is very positive."