Experts assess closed shooting range

A meeting was held at the Machickanee Forest Shooting Range on Fri, May 23, 2014. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

MORGAN - Discussions continue about changes at an Oconto County shooting range.

The county-run range was indefinitely shut down by the county earlier this month. Residents had complained about stray bullets damaging their property.

Experts on shooting range design met with Oconto County officials and residents Friday. The county is considering redesigning, relocating or permanently closing the Machickanee Forest Shooting Range.

"We're trying to look at all the different safety concerns on ways to improve the safety at the range," said Oconto County Parks Administrator Robert Skalitzy.

People who live nearby say bullets from the range were coming through their yards. They also complained about sounds of rapid gunfire.

"But when they're shooting bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, and that's not unusual," recalled Marianne Brown.

Brown lives a mile away. She says a bullet from the range hit her gazebo last year.

"I would like to just take a walk in the woods and say, 'Hey, do you know where you are shooting? Do you know you're hitting houses?' I was standing at the clothesline and I heard the bullets go by," she said.

Jeff Nass of Wisconsin Force says adding a shorter range could help gun users control their shots better.

"We want all rounds to hit the backstop," said Nass. "And if that happens, the possibility of ricochets is humongously reduced."

He says turning the range so it faces north instead of east could also help.

"If we can turn it 90 degrees and aim into nothing, that's what we're going to do," said Nass.

Nass believes the county could consider some changes to reduce the sound from the range, but he says the sound of gunfire doesn't impact safety.

"There's a misconception that there's danger because of that, I think is the biggest thing," said Nass.

The county may also raise admission fees and shorten range hours. That would require an ordinance change, which could be a two month process.

If Oconto County does decide to make some changes at the range, it has some money available. The county has $70,000 saved from fees users pay at the range. It also has $7,000 in a grant from the DNR.

A county committee will discuss the range again on June 4.

Skalitzky says the county is considering everything.

"We haven't made any decisions on what to do exactly, if we're going to relocate the range, reopen it, close it," he said. "Everything is still up for discussions."

Brown thinks the range will stay open, but changes will be made.

"It would be nice if it was at least regulated," she said. "I can't ask for it to go away, but it would be nice."