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Shooting for a new range

Gene Van Eeckhout, a member of the United Sportsmen of North Dakota Jamestown Chapter Shooting Range Committee, feels confident that gun and archery enthusiasts in the community can effectively organize and bring a shooting range back to Jamestown.

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Jeff Long, education coordinator for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, address the crowd gathered at Knights of Columbus Hall in Jamestown to talk about building a new shooting range in the Jamestown area. Keith Norman | THE SUN

Gene Van Eeckhout, a member of the United Sportsmen of North Dakota Jamestown Chapter Shooting Range Committee, feels confident that gun and archery enthusiasts in the community can effectively organize and bring a shooting range back to Jamestown.

"We just need to start to think," he said. "We have the mind, muscle and money to get it done."

Van Eeckhout estimated the crowd at between 150 and 200 people at an information meeting on the shooting range held at the Knights of Columbus Hall Thursday. The meeting was called to gauge interest in building a new shooting range and to recruit volunteers for organizational committees.

Curt Kasemen, member of the United Sportsmen, moderated the meeting and made a presentation for a shooting facility that could possibly include multiple shooting ranges and a clubhouse with classrooms.

"It's important to educate our youth," he said. "That is the way to resolve the problems with the Pipestem range."

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The shooting range at Pipestem Dam was closed in July after stray bullets from the range struck an occupied home adjacent to the range. It wasn't the first time that happened.

"I don't know how many homeowners would be patient enough to put up with four or five bullets hitting their home over an eight-year period," said Bob Martin, manager of the Pipestem Dam for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We had no other option. We closed it in July."

Martin also ruled out any future use of land at Pipestem Dam for a shooting range, saying there was no other locations on the property that would meet the safety requirements for a shooting range.

Kasemen said a shooting range must have a 2-mile downrange safety zone from the shooting range. While the club or organization owning the range would not have to own that property, it would have to work with county officials to create a special zoning district where houses could not be built.

Finding a location where there are no homes for at least 2 miles near Jamestown would be a challenge, Kasemen said.

John Mazur, hunter education supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said state law requires land either be donated to conservation groups such as those that would operate the shooting range or be specifically approved by the North Dakota Legislature and governor.

Mazur said once the land is acquired and the downrange safety area is properly zoned, grants from the state and other organizations and agencies are available. A recently opened range south of Bismarck cost about $250,000 to open.

"The state would fund 75 percent with a local 25 percent," he said. "The local match could be in kind with labor."

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Once the range is built, it will require a paid staff.

"What we've learned is it doesn't work to have an unmanned range," Mazur said. "Man the range with a paid person, not a volunteer."

Kasemen called for volunteers for a number of committees. He hopes to see all sportsmen and conservation clubs in the region combine their efforts with the idea of creating a shooting facility with multiple ranges that can accommodate rifles, pistols, shotguns and archery.

"We need everyone's support in the community," he said. "If we combine resources we can have one of the nicest ranges in the state."

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