SULTAN — At Spada Lake, the signs are riddled with bullet holes: “No Shooting.”
Illegal shooting has been a problem all around the Skykomish River valley for decades, residents say.
Snohomish County Parks is proposing a potential solution: a 640-acre rifle, pistol and archery range along Sultan Basin Road, a few miles outside of town, roughly north of Kellogg Lake.
Judging by the first public meeting about the proposal Thursday evening near Sultan, it might be a tough sell to immediate neighbors. They already hear distant gunfire often. They’re worried they’ll hear much more now, and much closer.
After Sierra Pacific Industries finishes logging the area by the fall, the site’s property is set to be transferred from the state Department of Natural Resources to Snohomish County.
‘It’s not a good location’
About 100 neighbors shared worries of noise, traffic and risk of potential misuse about the proposal Thursday at the Startup Event Center.
Tom Teigen, director of Snohomish County Conservation and Natural Resources, asked for a show of hands for who opposed the site.
Most hands shot up.
Carrie Arrants, who grew up in Sultan, said the county should find another site.
“It’s not a good location for it,” she said.
At her home near Winters Lake, about 4 miles north of Sultan, Arrants can hear gunshots and often finds empty shell casings. She feared noise and trash would worsen if the range opened, especially during competitions.
A 2021 Environmental Noise Impact Report outlined an extreme scenario — a bi- or tri-annual competition attracting 900 guests. This scenario assumed a third of of all the firing lanes discharging at the same time, as well as more noise from the crowd.
“It is predicted that noise levels could be as high as 64 (decibels, or dBs) at the entrance to the new site (property line) and 52 (dBs) at the nearest residential area,” according to the report.
A normal conversation is between 60 and 70 dBs.
The project master plan includes noise dampening features such as baffles.
‘Right now, it’s a skeleton crew’
Current resources make it difficult to control illicit shooting, Teigen said.
“Right now, it’s a skeleton crew,” he said.
A shooting park would discourage illegal gunfire. He compared it to the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe. The track is owned by the county and operated as a public-private partnership — like the range would be.
Debbie Copple, director of Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce, also attended the meeting. She grew up in a family passionate about shooting sports. For nine years, she helped manage the Sultan High School trapshooting team.
In 2004, the U.S. Forest Service closed the Index Sportsman Club range, where the team practiced, due to lead contamination.
“It was heartbreaking,” Copple said. “Transporting them to other places just to train, it just doesn’t work. I tried it for a couple of years and it was just too hard. And so we ended up having to give that up.”
Copple said shooting sports club have educational value.
“They have to study the Constitution and know why they have the right to do these sports here in this country,” she said.
Copple said the club held students to higher standards than other sports and did not tolerate participants getting into fights.
The Kenmore range in Bothell is too far for Copple, who said she doesn’t practice the hobby as much anymore.
Copple said the public meeting was important to hear neighbors’ concerns.
“I think that those are all really good questions,” she said, regarding attendees’ concerns. “We do care about the neighbors. But we also really want this (range). So let’s try to figure out what and where and how it can be done.”
‘This will take many, many years’
Teigen assured attendees no public money had been dedicated to develop the site. He’s hopeful a private entity would fund the entire proposal. In May 2021, county engineers estimated developing costs for a “premium model facility” at $21 million.
The park system “is probably 35 or 40% under-funded. We get over 5 million visitors. It’s awesome people love their parks,” he said. “We love providing them, but there’s never enough resources.”
Many attendees were skeptical a range charging fees would dissuade people from shooting illegally for free.
Teigen said multi-sports range plans have a long history. A Comprehensive Park and Recreation Plan first listed it as a priority in 1986. Later county reports reiterated the need for a range in 2001, 2007 and 2015.
Teigen said the range is a long-term plan.
“This will take many, many years to come to fruition,” he told attendees.
Alternative uses will also be considered for the site. Short-term plans could include more parking for outdoor activities and a gate to control access.
“It’s well known in the public space world, the more activated the public space is, the less inappropriate behaviors happen,” Teigen said.
Listening to the public is crucial, he said.
“It’s important to start a relationship, “he said. Neighbors “may be unhappy about it. But they’re engaging with the county, even with the park staff, and that’s important.”
The next public meeting is set for March 14 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Startup Event Center, 14315 366th Ave. SE.
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