Summit County officials move forward with noise mitigation measures for shooting range

Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence not satisfied with the outcome

The Summit County Shooting Range is pictured Oct. 25, 2019. Summit County officials recently heard a presentation from consultant Siebein Associates about noise mitigation strategies related to the range.
Photo by Deepan Dutta / Summit Daily archives

The Summit County Public Shooting Range is a free community resource that overlooks the impeccable Tenmile Range and brings in visitors from all over the region, including as far as Denver. But as surrounding residential areas, like Summit Cove and Keystone, have grown in size, the resource has become a source of contempt for many residents due to noise complaints.

That’s why Summit County hired sound consulting firm Siebein Associates, based in Florida, to conduct a study that evaluates noise challenges at the range and researches noise reduction strategies that could help mitigate the issue.

The study was presented to the Summit Board of County Commissioners during its work session meeting Tuesday, June 15. Gary Siebein, senior principal consultant, started the presentation by discussing the basics of how sound travels and why residential areas farther away, like Summit Cove, experience more noise issues than residents who live closer to the range, such as those at Wintergreen.

“Sound levels generally decrease as one moves farther away from the sound source because the sound energy is spread over a larger and larger area. … Sound levels fall off relatively quickly from the sound source, but as one gets farther and farther from the sound source, the distance needed for the sixth decibel reduction gets longer and longer,” Siebein said about how sound dissipates.

Also at play is the topography of the area, weather conditions including humidity and wind, and how many structural elements are acting as barriers.

“We’re really trying to identify the architectural and site strategies that will provide the greatest sound reduction in the residential areas that are pretty far away, and this is actually pretty hard to do,” Siebein said. “If people were living close to the range, say within a quarter-mile, there’s much greater sound reduction when you build a wall than when you live a mile and a half away. So it’s a very challenging site due to the distances and topography that are involved.”

Siebein and his team investigated 14 mitigation options, which mostly included installing natural or physical barriers on the site. Combinations of different structural elements were some of the most successful strategies at reducing noise.

Some of these options, though, were well outside the county’s budget, which is roughly $500,000 for this particular project. Some of these strategies cost around $10 million.

The board ultimately agreed that installing two 20-foot berms with a 10-foot fence on top was the best strategy to implement at this time. Assistant Summit County Manager Bentley Henderson noted that this fence would be made of material specifically used to mitigate noise. In some residential areas, this strategy would reduce the noise level by half.

During the meeting, Henderson said the county could import some of the material needed at a significantly reduced price, which would help the county dedicate funds toward other concerns, like wildfire mitigation. Henderson estimated this strategy would cost the county anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000 and that it would likely take a year before the project is complete. The berm will be located behind the shooting benches and run the length of all four ranges.

At this news, County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence noted she felt disappointed at the lack of short-term solutions and that she was unsure this strategy would be enough to mitigate the issue.

“I’m a little underwhelmed with the direction we’re going,” Lawrence said. “I just simply don’t think it’s enough.”

The team also agreed to explore the impact of fully enclosing each one of the shooting stations. During Siebein’s presentation, he noted enclosed stations, along with installing the berms, was one of the best strategies to mitigate the noise. But because of line-of-sight safety concerns raised by Summit Range Association member Brian Dennison, the team agreed to continue researching the idea before moving forward.

Summit County Manager Scott Vargo also suggested the team look into perimeter fencing that would encompass the entire range, which would help limit how much the range is used before and after its designated hours. Vargo also said he’d be continuing conversations with stakeholders, including nearby residents, about the issue.

County Commissioners Tamara Pogue and Josh Blanchard agreed they felt satisfied about the direction the project was heading with these additional measures.

“Looking at some of the projected budget implications for some of the mitigation options that we have — it ranged … from half a million dollars to pushing upward to $10 million — the reality is that we are working within the confines of budgets, and I am excited about what opportunities we do have,” Blanchard said.

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