Calhan • Eastern El Paso County residents were skeptical Friday about a proposed shooting range in Ramah at the first of a series of meetings intended to gauge public sentiment.
The meeting, which drew a few dozen people to the VFW Post in Calhan, was the first in a “listening tour” being held by the Southern Shooting Partnership. The organization, which includes county governments and other agencies that manage public lands, is looking to establish more designated sites for local recreational shooters.
The range has been proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and would be at the Ramah Reservoir State Wildlife Area. Renderings presented at the meeting show a roughly 40-acre range with two 30-meter pistol galleries and five other rifle ranges, from 100 to 300 meters in length.
It would be near the northern edge of the state wildlife area, and baffles and berms would be built to shield surrounding areas from errant bullets.
The reservoir is stocked with fish when the water level is sufficient, but that’s usually only about two out of every 10 years, said state Wildlife Manager Frank McGee, who oversees the Pikes Peak region.
“We’re hoping that this will provide an amenity that will bring people to the area and be a feature for them in years when we don’t have much water,” McGee said.
But residents are worried about the consequences of having a shooting range that, unlike the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex, would not be staffed. They also expressed concerns that the range could scare off animals, attract undesirable activity to the area, and become a headache for surrounding property owners.
“Our concern is the lack of supervision,” said George Fosha, president of the board of supervisors for Double EL Conservation District, which maintains the reservoir’s flood control dam. He added that the board fears the area would become a place where people come to drink and party after dark and leave their trash behind.
David McMillin, who lives west of Ramah, echoed Fosha’s opinion.
“I might have a little bit more agreeable stance on it if they had plans to staff it,” he said. “It’s being proposed as an unstaffed, unsupervised facility, which I think opens up the door for all kinds of trouble.”
Scott Mikita, whose property borders the proposed range, said he’s worried about liability and shooting activity spilling over onto his property.
“If something happens on my land, who’s going to take responsibility for it?” he said.
McGee said that Parks and Wildlife has several similar shooting ranges across the state, the closest of which is in Salida, and hasn’t experienced significant problems.
He added that other ranges are also on state wildlife areas, and the animals typically become acclimated to the noise very quickly.
“It is much, much, much safer for somebody to shoot at one of these ranges than for someone to just pull off the side of the road and set a target on a hillside,” he said.
On much of the land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, recreational shooting is legal. But shooters often run into others enjoying the outdoors, such as hikers, and errant bullets can occasionally cause injuries or even deaths.
If Parks and Wildlife builds the range as designed, it would likely cost more than $500,000 and be paid for with federal funding, McGee said.
Several of the meeting’s attendees were impressed with the plan.
Falcon resident Kevin Carroll said that he, like many of his neighbors, usually sets up a makeshift shooting range on his 5-acre property.
“We would much prefer to go to a nice, established, safe shooting range,” he said. “We feel comfortable shooting at home, but there’s always that chance of an accident — heaven forbid.”