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The Shooting Gallery
There are a great many things I don’t understand. Just for example, I don’t understand people who have so much status anxiety they think they have to put the name of their college in the back window of their car. The same people pay for a car and then spend the next eight years carrying around a piece of advertising for the dealer on the trunk.
No doubt about it. People do strange things. Take the shooting gallery down at the bottom of our beautiful canyon. It’s an acre of ground that used to have trees and flowers and now it looks like hell after the fire’s gone out because almost every day of the year people go there and shoot at targets, bottles, mattresses or old TV sets. You name it and it’s probably been shot at and left there for someone else to clean up. They used to shoot at the trees, but the trees were blasted into splinters about six years ago.
In April of 1988 I first wrote to the County and got an answer from then Captain of the Patrol Division, now Sheriff, George Epp. He said there had been “numerous complaints over the years,” that it was the Forest Service's position that “target shooting is permitted on the land,” and that “shooting at the location is legal, unless the shooters are using unsafe practices. If unsafe practices are being used, we ask you or anyone with knowledge of them to contact us and we will take appropriate enforcement action.”
I didn't understand that. Was I supposed to take names? Right. I'm supposed to walk up to a guy with a cannon in his hand and say, “You’re using unsafe practices, fella. Lemme have your name. I’m gonna report you to the Sheriff.” Sure.
I’ve had correspondence and conversations with Forester Mary Ann Chambers (September '88), H. Peter Wingle, the Director of Recreation and Lands (November 88), Raymond Benton, Forest Supervisor (December 88), F. Dale Robertson, Chief of the Forest Service (May and August '89), and several local members of the Forest Service, including Pam DeVore and John Heaton.
Finally I sent a letter to William Anthony, the newest local representative of the Forest Service in Boulder. I sent that letter March 24th 1993, and he still hasn’t answered it. I pointed out, as I have to everyone from the Secretary of Agriculture (April '89, complete with pictures of the place) down to Mary Ann Chambers, that the place is dangerous, it has almost a ton of lead deposited in it every year (so far no agency has had the guts to sample the water) and it’s a garbage dump and an eyesore. It seems to me that should have been enough to warrant some action, even out of a bureaucracy as obviously inefficient as the Forest Service.
Fortunately, I haven't been alone. Others have made similar complaints, and now Mr. Anthony says, as you may have read in the Boulder Daily Camera recently and here in the WIND this month, the place will be closed within the month. Well, don’t hold your breath. In 1988 I was told the Forest Service would “look into the possibility of closing the area.” They weren’t really interested, however; both Wingle and Epp wrote that the place wasn’t dangerous: “according to the Sheriff's records, there has never been an accidental shooting in the area,” Wingle wrote to me in December of 1988, and since then the record is still unblemished.
“How are things goin’?" somebody yelled to a man as he fell past the second-story window. “So far, so good,” he replied.
In 1989 I got a letter from Mr. Robertson, Chief of the Forest Service, after I sent the file and pictures to Agriculture Secretary Yeutter. His reply said, in part, “The Boulder District is currently studying the area for any resource damage and potential safety hazards. They will contact you about the future management of the area when the study is completed.” That was 1989. They didn’t contact me.
In April of 1992 I managed to convince John Heaton and Mary Ann Chambers to visit the site. We looked around and came to the conclusion that, “Yup, this place is sure a mess.” That conclusion took four years.
Now another two years have gone by and it sounds as though Mr. Anthony is serious and the place will finally be closed down. If it is, it will have taken a very long time to accomplish something that, from the outset, should have been done immediately. As I said, there are a great many things I just don’t understand. [The site was closed and has quickly reverted to its natural state.]
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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