The Department of Natural Resources is asking for public input on the three proposed shooting range locations, one of which will likely replace the current shooting area known as Hoosier Valley.
Hoosier Valley in Blair Township has been used as an unofficial gun range since 1960.
The state forest land has become popular with gun enthusiasts, but local residents have complained of noise and safety concerns, as well as road congestion.
â??I don't go outside and enjoy my property,â?? said Kathy Parton who lives in the nearby subdivision. â??I can't have company over and sit outside and have a barbecue or a fire. It's like being barraged with constant gunfire. You feel like you're almost in a war.â??
The DNR drafted a set of interim rules for the range in 2013 to help with the concerns from residents. The rules include designated shooting hours, types of targets permissible at the range, as well as magazine limits.
State and local officials held a meeting Tuesday to give the community updates and get public input on three proposed shooting range locations.
"A new shooting area will not occur overnight and will take many months of careful planning to provide a safe, compatible experience," said Bill Sterrett, district supervisor with the DNR Forest Resources Division. "The three sites we have identified on state land for public review and input are located in Blair, Fife Lake and Whitewater townships, all within a half-hour drive of Traverse City."
Sites 1a and 1b in Blair Township are remote. The range would face a swamp which would help dampen the sound. DNR officials say they would look into a potential partnership with the Kingsley Sportsmanâ??s Club.
Site 2 in Whitewater Township is also remote, with the nearest neighbors more than a mile away. A possible partnership would be addressed with the Walton Junction Sportsmanâ??s Club.
Site 3 in Fife Lake Township is sandwiched between railroad tracks and U.S. 131. The site would offer easy access off the highway, but more study is needed on how the range could affect snowmobile trails. The Walton Junction Sportsmanâ??s Club could also partner with DNR for this location.
Representatives from DNR Marketing and Outreach Division were on hand to lay out potential funding and design strategies.
â??What maybe going on in the area that we're just not aware of, if there's a better site than another oneâ?| Weâ??re looking for that comment,â?? explained Dennis Fox, DNR Recruitment and Retention Section Manager. â??We're always looking at providing the most recreation opportunities we can we have to balance that with other recreation users on state land.â??
Residents say they will take a look at the plans before deciding which they prefer.
â??I think I need to go out there and do my own research like everybody should and figure out what's going to be the best what's going to work the best for them,â?? said Maggie Pezzullo of Elk Rapids. â??As long as we have a safe place where we can go and we aren't being harassed I think that's going to work for everybody.â??
DNR officials say if a decision is made, there could be progress made yet this year, it depends on what location is selected and how elaborate of a range will be put in place.
Feedback on the proposed sites is requested as soon as possible. The DNR would like to make a decision within the next month.
You can contact your local office for more information or email Bill Sterrett at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on the proposals.