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Sport shooting closures discussed

BY MAX L EVY REPORTER-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Larimer County commissioners explored what it would take to close areas deemed unsafe for recreational shooting around Red Feather Lakes and Crystal Lakes on Wednesday.

Area residents’ complaints about bullets striking homes and shooters trespassing on private property were part of what prompted the U.S. Forest Service to map out areas not suitable for shooting in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.

While the agency plans to close the areas eventually once additional shooting ranges are set up as a “replacement,” commissioners showed interest in the county closing those areas sooner on their own authority as a stopgap measure.

Commissioner John Kefalas said that, during community conversation events in June and July, Red Feather Lakes and Crystal Lakes residents shared their frustrations with the state of recreational shooting in the area.

“Apparently this has been an issue for a while now,” Kefalas said. “I think there’s general agreement that there definitely are legitimate safety concerns.”

Bryon Fessler, president of the Crystal Lakes Road and Recreation Association, addressed the commissioners on Wednesday,

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saying his neighbors call their community a “warzone” due to stray bullets damaging houses and passing close by residents on their own properties.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s just a nonstop use of firearms.”

Dan Rieves of the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources also said the number of sport shooters active in the wilderness west of Fort Collins has surged amid a general rise in outdoor recreation spurred by COVID-19.

In response to a question by commissioner Steve Johnson, Katie Donahue of the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that state law allowed the county to close federal lands to shooters.

Kefalas said the board would consult with the county attorney’s office on whether the county could effectively close the risky areas.

Donahue and Commissioner Tom Donnelly also talked about the potential role that the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office would play in enforcing the closures.

While Donahue said the Forest Service plans to deploy additional resources along the Front Range once the closure goes into effect, until then, deputies would likely have to coordinate with rangers to enforce the rules.

“If it’s truly a big enough issue, and everybody seems to agree that it is, it seems like we would have to work together to find the solution,” Donnelly said.

The commissioners also agreed that placing signs in the areas would be helpful, and Rieves said signage would make it easier for officers to issue tickets.

Donnelly also suggested that the county could invest in developing other sport shooting ranges in the area, and Fessler said the Northern Colorado Rod and Gun Club may be willing to partner with the county to develop public shooting areas.

“We know it can be done with the right amount of determination,” Fessler said.

Max Levy: 970-699-5404, mlevy@prairiemountainmedia.com

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