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Rifle range in local gun group’s sights

Arabia – Local citizens have set their sights on opening a rifle range in Wayne National Forest.

Thursday, March 08, 2001

Arabia – Local citizens have set their sights on opening a rifle range in Wayne National Forest.

Lawrence County gun enthusiast are trying to persuade the federal government to allow the group to open a rifle range on the government property. The group has proposed an area outside of Arabia as a possible location for the recreational facility. The range would be located in an area known as Coffee and Tea.

The group has held a few organizational meetings at C&C Grocery in Arabia and have met informally with federal and state officials.

Richard Meyers, an attorney in Chesapeake, said a great deal of interest has been generated in the range.

On February 10, the group held its first meeting at the Arabia grocery store. Meyers said more than 50 people attended the meeting.

Those interested in the site have established a steering committee, which Meyers heads, to look at some issues that needs to be addressed before a formal proposal is drafted. The group is looking at potential sites for the range and drafting a mission statement outlining the purpose of the site.

Meyers said the group is working with the Lawrence County Park and Recreation Board on the required paperwork. The group is working under the land committee of the park board.

Wayne National Forest District Ranger Mike Baines said the forest service wants to guarantee federal property is the best place for the rifle range. He said the government would look to the private business sector to see if any "entrepreneur" would like to open the business. He added the government "doesn’t want to take away economic chances" from private citizens.

"I feel that it is an important project," Baines said, "I am thrilled that local people are interested enough to do the work and it’s going to require a lot of work."

He said that in his role as a public servant, it is his duty to see the forest is used in the best way.

Baines said if the rifle range was approved, a "special use" permit would be issued by the government defining the scope of which the rifle range would operate. He said the government would need to see studies on the environmental impact the gun range would have on the federal property and the safety issues involved in opening a range.