A year ago the Summit County Shooting Range was a neglected and largely unmanaged area on the outskirts of the local landfill.
With trash piling up and no safety regulations in place, county officials were contemplating closing the range altogether.
Then came the Summit Range Association, a nonprofit made up of users who wanted to see the facility thrive. The association began taking over responsibility for the range, implementing a set of rules, developing a website, training and placing volunteer safety officers and landing a grant to spruce up the area.
“These guys have done extraordinary work up at the shooting range,” assistant county manager Thad Noll said at a recent meeting with SRA representatives. Already, they’re seeing results. Traffic to the website is increasing, and on busy weekends the range is hitting capacity as word spreads that the facility is open, maintained and still free.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, roughly 300 people came out to use the enhanced shooting site over a two-day period.
But the group says it’s not done. It has submitted a second grant application to make even bigger improvements to the range, including permanent restrooms. It’s also looking to user donations to help cover the cost of managing the facility.
“We’re doing all the operations and maintenance ourselves,” SRA head Brian Denison said. “We’re trying to keep it free.”
The group also is hoping to tweak the rules for the range to keep it safe, and to bring its policies in line with those of the National Rifle Association.
New regulations could include:
• Requiring handgun owners to have their weapons cased or holstered unless they are shooting;
• Implementing a registration system for instructors, who would be allowed to bring up to two students to the range for lessons for a small yearly fee;
• Enacting a strictly enforced one-hour use limit for benches on busy days so those waiting have an opportunity to shoot;
• Banning certain weapons, including cannons, which are too big for the Summit County range; and
• Requiring those who intend to bring a large number of people to the range for a special event or for-profit venture to pay a fee to do so.
The county will also likely help cover the cost of insurance policies for the range operators for the first year. SRA representatives say they expect donations to cover the cost in the future.
The range’s new managers say reactions to the changes have been positive and that many users are developing a sense of pride in the range that prompts them to keep up the improvements and continue to take care of the facility.
“It’s great when people come out to the range and say, ‘This used to be the Wild West out here, and now it’s a place I can come and bring my family,’” said Brad Deats of the SRA.
Additional information on the Summit County Shooting Range, a complete list of rules and a link to make donations are available online at SummitRange.org.