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The issue of the establishment of a local public shooting range resurfaced at a recent Jefferson County Commission meeting.
Keith Cook, who proposed the idea to the commission in April and got commissioners to agree to pursue it, returned to the board on Thursday evening, June 20, to inquire about how the effort was proceeding?
Cook also wanted clarity on a couple of issues.
First, he said, he had heard rumors that some commissioners didn't want him involved in the effort, although the commission at the earlier meeting had tasked him with pursuing the matter. Was there any truth to the rumor? Cook wanted to know.
Commissioners distanced themselves from the alleged hearsay. They didn't know how such a rumor could possibly have gotten started or who would start it, they said. And yes, they wanted him involved, they added.
Cook's next question concerned hearsay that a landowner adjacent to the proposed shooting range site had protested and commissioners were looking for an alternative site. Was there any truth to this rumor? Cook asked.
Commissioner J.T. Surles conceded that he had approached Beau Turner to get the latter's reaction to the shooting range. Turner owns the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center, a youth-oriented facility with a focus on outdoors activities, located near the county's closed landfill, the proposed site for the shooting range.
Surles said that Turner initially had been upset about the idea of a shooting range next to his property. But in the end, Surles said, Turner had offered to work with county officials to help them find an alternative site. That was where things stood at present, he said, adding that no alternative sites had yet been explored.
But Cook, Surles said, was more than welcomed to participate in the exploration of alternative sites.
“I just don't want this to die on the vine,” Cook said.
County Coordinator Parrish Barwick added that environmental engineer Dean Gordon, who had volunteered to do the design for the shooting range, would have the drawing ready for viewing at the Thursday, July 18 commission meeting. At which time, he suggested, any alternative sites explored could also be discussed.
Cook originally proposed the idea of a shooting range about two years ago and then brought it up again in April, arguing that it would be good for the community and the local economy.
He suggested that the county begin with small with a pistol and rifle range and build these up over time until the facility could host national matches.
“It would be a moneymaker for the county,” Cook argued at the time.
The closest public shooting ranges now are in Midway, Apalachicola and Valdosta. Proponents of the facility say a shooting range would promote safety, teach shooting skills and bring money into the community, among other things.
Whatever site is selected, however, it must conform to the county's requirements for shooting ranges, according to County Attorney Scott Shirley. Those requirements, Shirley said, dictate, among other things, that the property be a minimum of 40 acres and that the range be a minimum distance of 300 feet from the property line and 200 feet from the nearest neighbor.