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Shooting park targets December opening

About three years after politicians and other dignitaries turned over the golden shovels full of dirt at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the long-awaited Clark County Shooting Park, those same individuals joined nearly 250 park supporters at the park’s official dedication ceremony in August.

The ceremony was a forum in which elected officials took the opportunity to woo gun owners and hunters, but, more important, it was a significant event for Southern Nevada’s recreational shooters who need a safe and legal place to shoot. The dedication marked the beginning of the end to the decades-long crusade for a publicly owned shooting facility.

”In America, we have a lot of different opportunities for leisure time. … We’re here today to talk about a sport we call shooting,” Sen. Harry Reid told the gathering. ”It’s part of the American tradition. It’s certainly part of the Nevada tradition. Today … we’ll be insuring the tradition will endure for generations to come.”

When some people think of a shooting range, they have visions of rickety shooting benches and railroad ties pounded into the ground for use as target stands. To these posts they see bits of cardboard attached with targets stapled or taped in place. This facility is anything but that.

”Nevadans aim very, very high, and we set out to create the largest and most advanced shooting range in the world,” Reid said. “We kept a steady eye on the target; that’s what you need to do.”

Upon entering the park, the first shooting venue is for the shotgun sports. Stretching into the distance from the brown brick clubhouse and its red tile roof are 24 combination trap and skeet fields. The roofs on the upper and lower skeet houses also are red tile. In the parking lot is a long line of RV parking stalls complete with full hookups.

Next up are the rifle and pistol ranges, with shooting lines that are covered with a wide, full-length shade canopy that is built to withstand 85 mph winds. Not to mention the shade they provide. Under the canopy are lights for shooting in low-light conditions. Each range is fully lit by lights similar to those at the local park. Heavy-duty shooting benches are provided at the rifle and pistol ranges, with stools of equal quality. Plan on leaving your cardboard box at home because the provided target stands use an in-the-ground system designed for easily moving the stand to various shooting distances.

And beyond that is the Education Center, where people will be able to complete state Hunter Education classes, courses in gun safety and concealed weapons classes or attend workshops and meetings.

So, when will the park open to the public? That’s the $64 million question. Don Turner, shooting park manager, anticipates full completion in mid-November with operations beginning about the middle of December if everything goes smoothly.

When the park opens, Turner hopes to have in place a cadre of shooting park volunteers who will help with day-to-day operations, everything from line safety to park maintenance. An integral part of the volunteer program will be campground hosts who will serve at the range in exchange for living space. Included in the first phase of the shooting park is a 30-site campground just for them.

In exchange for 15 hours of service per week, volunteer hosts get to stay in a site that comes complete with a covered canopy sufficiently large for most recreational vehicles, a 50-amp service connection, water and sewer hookups, a concrete pad, a picnic table and a barbecue grill. Not to mention new landscaping with drought-tolerant trees that eventually will add to the available shade, a necessity for Southern Nevada summers. Volunteers also will have access to a laundry and shower facilities.

Those seeking long-term accommodations will be able to order phone and cable services. The camping sites are prewired.

All applications for shooting park volunteer opportunities are handled through the Clark County Department of Parks & Recreation.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at dougnielsen@att.net.

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