Snohomish County to request land for gun range

SULTAN — Snohomish County has set its sights on state-managed forestland for a future gun range.

On Monday, the County Council voted 4-0 to formally request that the state transfer up to 227 acres along Sultan Basin Road to the county’s control to develop it into a gun range.

“This is a first, major step, but it’s not the end of the process,” Councilman Dave Somers said. “I know there are some issues with noise and safety we need to address.”

Somers said he believes the proposal would be better than the current situation involving “random recreational shooting” at gravel pits along the road.

The land in question sits within state forest trust lands northeast of Sultan. The idea is to eventually convert part of that land into a supervised shooting range run by the county parks department. The county would need to find ways to lessen noise from the range, Somers said.

The concept of a county-run shooting range has been debated for more than 30 years. It has gained support recently with the closure of other shooting areas.

The state Board of Natural Resources hopes to act on the county’s request for transferring the land in the next few months, said Aaron Toso, a spokesman for the DNR’s Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands. The board’s next scheduled meetings are Nov. 2 and Dec. 7.

If the state does transfer the land, the county still has important problems to solve. To start with, there’s no funding for the proposed range.

The county also might have to complete additional environmental studies.

The council closed down one of the most popular local shooting spots in February when it designated a gravel pit on 116th Street SE, just off Sultan Basin Road, a no-shooting area.

Stan Bernard of Lynnwood had been frequenting the gravel pit for more than 20 years. Though sad to see it closed, Bernard said he understood the potential danger it posed to nearby homes.

Now, Bernard and other target-shooting enthusiasts stand ready to donate time, equipment and expertise to make a public range a reality.

“There’s a huge, huge demand for a place to shoot,” Bernard said. “If it were run in a clean, safe way, the usage would be phenomenal, I’m sure.”

There has been official support for creating a public range for some time. Opening a public range also is part of long-term state and county plans for outdoor recreation.

In 1998, the County Council accepted a recommendation from the county’s Parks Advisory Board to find a site for a public shooting range.

At the time, they found that “the lack of a public shooting range to serve the needs of the recreational shooter has led to dangerous shooting practices at gravel pits, in wooded areas, and in developed neighborhoods.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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