A local club would like to see the county shooting range moved further north on County Road 65.
There is currently a public shooting range on county land just east of the Franklin County Humane Society on County Road 65. A group of local outdoorsmen, the Tate’s Hell Rod and Gun Club (THRGC), has taken on the task of facilitating the construction of a new public rifle range in the county.
According to the THRGC website, plans include separate pistol, rifle, trap and skeet areas with covered shooting benches.
“Our first goals are to facilitate the relocation and improvement of our county's rifle range to a more suitable location to make it safer for shooters and neighbors. We hope in the future to arrange firearm training courses as well as competitive matches open to the public,” reads the site.
“A secondary goal will be to work with FWC on other regulatory agencies to voice our concerns with hunting and fishing regulations. We intend to advocate, with elected officials at all levels, hunting, fishing and firearm laws that reflect the needs and desires of our community's sportsmen,” it reads.
Grayson Shepard, a spokesman for THRGC, said moving the range would have a number of advantages. He said, because the range is adjacent to and in clear view of the county inmate’s exercise yard, some shooters are nervous about displaying automobile tag numbers and equipment they own to potential thieves. There are also safety concerns for the prisoners and the possibility of clandestine transfer of a weapon to an inmate.
In addition, the range is adjacent to the Franklin County Animal Shelter and, in particular, its outdoor kennels. The sound of gunfire is disruptive to both the animals and staff of the shelter and Director Karen Martin has expressed concern that an animal could be accidentally shot.
The shelter has also experienced problems with vehicles going to and from the range driving recklessly and speeding. The shelter is circulating the petition to move the range north on CR 65.
THRGC, which now boasts more than 100 members, is not working alone on creating the new range.
In March 2012, Bill Cline, section leader, division of hunting and game management for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), brought a proposal before the county commission to create a public shooting park on a cleared section of land directly north of the sheriff’s office. Cline said FWC funding was in place for the project. He provided commissioners with a handout and gave some background on the park project. Cline said that at the last FWC Meeting, former Sheriff Skip Shiver had suggested a location.
Former Commissioner Bevin Putnal and Commissioners Pinki Jackel and Cheryl Sanders supported his plan. Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter of support for the shooting range to the FWC. Since the property belongs to the school board and, at the time, the county leased a portion of it, a copy of the letter was sent to the school board.
The plan stalled when further investigation of the property revealed that portions were also leased to Eastpoint Water and Sewer District for possible use as a spray field at some future date.
In a telephone interview Feb. 6, Cline said the FWC still strongly supports the gun park.
“Our funding sources change every year. This year our funds are spent. We’re always willing to work with Franklin County. Other funding sources might be available. We’re looking at state lands that might be available. The support is still there. We need to find a location.”
Jackel, a vocal advocate of the project, said at the Feb. 5 county meeting that she and County Planner Alan Pierce are investigating sites.
“FWC is very interested in sponsoring a classroom building that they will pay for construction of. We would have instructional courses. It would be something that we could really build on in the county that would be an economic engine. We could attract competition skeet shooting, trap and archery and there’s the educational aspect. ROTC and different folks at the school could use the range,” said Jackel.
“It would just be a really nice facility for the public because we’re hunters. We own guns. We’d like the opportunity to have a safe environment and an instructional environment also,” she said.
Shepard said local Scout troops also support the development of a new shooting range.
If you are interested in information about the proposed shooting range or wish to show your support for the plan, you can visit the website for the Tate’s Hell Rod and Gun Club at http://thrgc.com/.
Membership in the club is free and you can join online.