Gun club changes on horizon

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:54 AM

A gun club official said this week that they are getting close to presenting to neighbors and Grand Haven Township officials a proposal for safety enhancements, with the hope to soon re-open the range.

“We are doing some preliminary stuff,” said Mark Welch, president of the gun club's board of directors.

Dirt was being moved Wednesday to increase the height of the main berms and to build a new berm between the rifle and pistol ranges. Volunteers also built mockups of a baffle system, based on information obtained from other clubs, which they are moving around to determine the best placement, Welch said.

Township Manager Bill Cargo said he has not talked to anyone from the gun club in several months. The last communication was in July when the township sent the club a letter to assure them that the township would not consider the range abandoned during the evaluation and planning time.

Cargo said the township also has not received an expected copy of an evaluation report on the club's shooting range from the National Rifle Association.

Welch said “it’s a source of endless frustration” that they have only received fragments of information from the NRA.

“We have not received any kind of a final, finished product," he added.

Welch said the bits and pieces they have received confirmed that the range fulfilled all NRA requirements, but that there are a number of things they could do to enhance safety and become better neighbors.

The range was shut down Sept. 29, 2011, after residents from the Cutter Park neighborhood complained about bullets landing in and near their homes. An investigation by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department revealed that more than a dozen homes had bullets land in roofs and siding.

Officers from the Grand Valley State University’s Department of Public Safety were training on the range at the time. A contractor was injured when one of those bullets landed in his arm while he worked in the driveway of a home.

The club is located on 160th Avenue, west of the subdivision, which is between Lincoln and Ferris streets.

The Sheriff's Department report indicated that some of the rounds being fired by the GVSU officers escaped the range because the portable targets were not positioned close enough to the earth berm that was supposed to be backstop.

No criminal charges resulted from the incident.

Welch said club members have been doing a lot of research since the incident, looking at other facilities to see their safety options. That's how they came up with the proposed baffle system.

The club is also working on a practical operation plan — when the range will be open and who can use it. This will be discussed with the neighbors and the township, Welch said.

“We’re feeling our way along very carefully,” he said.

Cutter Park neighborhood association representative Jeremey Wilder said the group has no comment at this time. They will wait until they receive information from the gun club and the township.

Read the gun club's letter to the township by clicking on the PDF below:

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