Summit County considers noise mitigation as Keystone shooting range sparks complaints

Dan Bjork, right, gives instruction to Aaron Byrne, left, as he prepares to fire at a target downrange at the Summit County Public Shooting Range in Keystone, Oct. 25.
Deepan Dutta /

KEYSTONE — The Summit County Resource Allocation Park is one of the prettiest landfills you might ever see. The Summit County Public Shooting Range right next to it shares the majestic views of the Tenmile Range as well as an overlook of the nearby Summit Cove neighborhood.

Complaints have started rolling in from nearby homeowners in Summit Cove and Keystone about noise at the shooting range, which was formally built and regulated in 2010 after being informally used as a range since the 1980s.

The continuous daytime barrage of pistols, rifles and shotguns echos off the mountain and cracks across the valley below, causing consternation among nearby residents, even those who were aware of the range when they moved in.

Tracey Carisch, a homeowner who lives a little more than a mile from the range, wrote to the Summit Daily News in August voicing her concern about the noise.

“I live over a mile from the shooting range, and yet our family wakes up to the sound of gun shots on almost a daily basis,” Carisch wrote.

She added that some people had taken liberties with the range’s rules and started shooting early in the morning, before the range’s posted hours. She said momentum in the neighborhood had grown as of late, with more and more of her neighbors clamoring for something to be done about the noise.

“This area has changed a lot over the years,” Carisch said. “This might have been a very rural area for the range back in the day, but now it’s in the middle of a growing community.”

Aaron Byrne, who oversees operations at the range, said that before 2010, the range was unregulated, with no regular hours or rules and users leaving their spent casings and other trash behind.

The sign at the entrance to the Summit County Public Shooting Range on Friday, Oct. 25, in Keystone.
Photo by Deepan Dutta / Summit Daily archives

Byrne oversaw the renovation of the shooting range, adding shelters and a public bathroom, fixing targets and applying posted regulations that cover the type of firearms allowed, hours of operation and safety. The renovation and ongoing operations are partially sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as the Friends of the National Rifle Association.

Those changes did a lot to improve the shooting range experience but not much to mitigate noise.

Byrne noted that part of the problem is related to the clearing of beetle-killed trees near the range, which had somewhat muffled noise. But now, the range is exposed to its neighbors.

Byrne said the range gets about four to five noise complaints a year and that he and members of the nonprofit Summit Range Association try to address complaints whenever they arise, working with neighbors to find a solution.

The complaints didn’t just address shooting during the daytime. Summit County Manager Scott Vargo recalled a complaint about shooting noise at night. This was back in August, when law enforcement officers were conducting night training at their own shooting range next to the public one. It also happened to be the night before school started for the year.

The noise prompted a resident to approach the Range Association during its monthly public meeting to voice concern. The resident was alarmed at the sound of shooting in the evening, given increasing incidents of mass shootings and the climate of fear surrounding them.

The pistol range at the Summit County Public Shooting Range on Friday, Oct. 25, in Keystone.
Deepan Dutta/Summit Daily archive

Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said he understood the incident was a bit of a “perfect storm,” with the opening of school and wind that carried noise down to the valley that night. But he said that in his 15 years at the Sheriff’s Office, it was the first time he had heard of complaints about night training.

FitzSimons said the night training is necessary for officers to practice shooting in low-light conditions. He said he is in favor of the county opening an indoor shooting range for law enforcement, at the very least, but admitted it would be an expensive endeavor.

Dan Bjork, vice president of the Summit Range Association, said despite the occasional complaint about noise, the range had seen a lot of support from the community over the years, with $1,000 a month raised from brass case recycling and community donations. The range also has become popular among Front Range residents, as it is one of the only public outdoor shooting ranges in the region.

“About 70% to 80% of our clientele is from the Front Range,” Bjork said. “It’s because it’s a quality range. Colorado Parks and Wildlife said it was the best range they know of that is a free public range.”

Byrne added that the shooting range had critical value to the community as a centralized place for people to shoot, instead of out on national forestland or at trailheads. Aside from avoiding the human safety and noise issues, it also mitigates fire danger created by shooters firing idly into dry brush.

Aaron Byrne, foreground, readies his rifle at the Summit County Public Shooting Range on Friday, Oct. 25, in Keystone. Several improvements at the range were made in 2010, including a public restroom and supply area.
Deepan Dutta /

With hunting season going on, activity has picked up at the range and will continue until at least mid-December. Byrne said the Range Association and county are aware of the need to find a way to mitigate noise at the range, and they are looking into applying for grants from state and national groups to help pay for it.

Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson, who was public works director for the town of Basalt when it took measures to mitigate noise at its outdoor range, said it cost the town close to $200,000 to contract a firm to construct a three-sided structure around the range to direct noise forward while blocking noise in other directions.

It has yet to be determined whether that kind of structure is feasible or affordable in the wide-open area where the Summit range sits near Frey Gulch. Byrne and Vargo said they also are looking into the possibility of installing a higher berm to shield the valley from the noise.

For her part, Carisch said she was pleased with the steps being taken toward mitigating the noise.

“I would like us to work together to find a way to minimize the daily noise,” Carisch said. “I am optimistic that there are noise reduction options and to work collaboratively among people who like to shoot and people who don’t have that hobby.”

Byrne said he and the Range Association are more than happy to continue working with the community for a solution.

“This model here for the county has been very successful,” Byrne said. “We want to be good partners with the community and do whatever we can to address any concerns.”

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