County takes big step toward new shooting range

SULTAN — A long-awaited gun and archery range planned east of town could be closer to becoming reality, following a big commitment by Snohomish County.

The County Council last week agreed to pay a Tacoma-based consultant $288,000 to create a blueprint for the proposed Sky Valley Sportsman’s Park. Built in phases, the facility would likely start with archery, then expand to include pistol and rifle ranges. Camping areas and a pro shop also could factor into the design.

“It means finally the plan will be coming together: what we’d like to be in the park, what facilities, what phases we would like it to be built in,” County Council Chairman Dave Somers said. “We think there will be a great demand for a facility here in the county.”

The county’s contract with Bruce Dees &Associates to draft the plans runs through November, but could be extended by several months.

Anyone interested in the shooting range, as well as those who oppose it, should have the chance to participate in at least two public meetings. Those meetings are likely several months away. No dates have been set.

Approving a master plan for the shooting range is only a first step. Afterward, the county wants to find private or nonprofit partners to help build, operate and maintain the facilities.

“Operating a shooting range is not a core competency of a county parks system,” parks director Tom Teigen said.

Beyond shooting sports, parks officials hope the parts of the park also could host obstacle course races and bicycle events, such as cyclo-cross.

The first part of the range to open is likely to be for archery, because it requires little infrastructure and has minimal environmental impact, Teigen said. The county’s growing 4-H archery program is eager for more facilities, the parks director said.

The county has 150 acres for the shooting range. It sits off of Sultan Basin Road, north of U.S. 2.

The state Department of Natural Resources transferred the former timberland to the county in 2011 for use as a future park. That transaction was years in the making.

Enthusiasts have been working toward building a range in the area for about 30 years. They’ve spent much of that time frustrated.

In the mid-1980s, a parks planning document identified a shooting range as a future goal. Between 1997 and 2002, the county performed extensive public outreach. An environmental impact statement was completed at the time, but has since become outdated.

The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce has been a big proponent of the range, which its members believe will draw tourists to the area. Another upside is its potential to cut down on illegal shooting in the area.

“There is an immense amount of excitement and support,” chamber director Debbie Copple said. “We constantly have people coming here to ask, ‘Where can I shoot? Where can I take my kids so they can learn how to be safe?’ ”

The master plan will help determine what kinds of activities can be offered. Many supporters would like to see the full array of Olympic shooting sports, including those involving shotguns, Copple said. She’s hopeful the archery range will be running by the summer of 2015.

Learn more

For more information on the planning of the Sky Valley Sportsman’s Park, call Snohomish County senior parks planner Kevin Teague at 425-388-6609 or email kevin.teague@snoco.org.

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

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