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Wood County closes gun range due to high costs

VOLCANO, W.Va. — The gun range at Mountwood Park will be closing for good.

The Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission voted Monday evening to close the park’s gun range permanently.

With just one vote against closing, issued by Board President Bob Buchanan, the board could not come to an agreement with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources over a plan to renovate and fix the park’s gun range, a project which was expected to cost over $100,000 and the DNR was prepared to pay for.

”We could not agree on the conditions in the DNR lease,” Buchanan said.

Both sides have the option of filing a 60-day notice to terminate the contract.

”I am writing that notification to the DNR that we are planning on exercising that option,” Buchanan said.

One of the main points would have been if the property ever ceased being a gun range or the park did not want the gun range anymore, the park would have to agree to pay back the DNR the money that went into refurbishing the gun range.

”We did not have those funds available,” Buchanan said of the estimated $125,000-$130,000 it would cost to refurbish the range.

The range has been closed since March 14.

Issues over maintenance, upkeep and safety also prompted the board’s action, said Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch, who serves on the park board.

”We have had much discussion about the gun range,” Couch said of meetings with the board as well as public meetings.

The range is not monitored as no staff is specifically tasked with monitoring the activities there. Park officials have sought volunteers who would care for the range, much like others do for the trails at the park, but they could not find enough people to make an adequate go of it.

”I would have loved to have kept it available to the public,” Buchanan said.

Couch said the range has been a point of contention for a lot of people.

”There are people who are upset it is closed,” he said. ”There are people who are upset it is there.”

Couch said many of the park’s staff thought it was unsafe in its current setup.

”We tried to find an accommodation,” he said.

Buchanan said hikers and bikers have contacted the park staff, saying they did not think the park was a conducive environment for a gun range. Buchanan said he has not received those kind of complaints.

Park officials have held a series of meetings over the last several months to discuss the future of the gun range and if it could be refurbished and if so, what steps could be taken in maintaining it.

The free public range at Mountwood Park has fallen into disrepair over the years.

Officials have discussed the problems at the range, from excessive amounts of trash to a general indifference from people who use the range regarding its upkeep.

Many of the target backstops are gone, having been shot up. People have brought things to hang targets on or have brought old television sets and appliances out there to shoot. A lot of the debris was left on the range when they were done.

The park did not have the maintenance staff available to keep up with the upkeep of the range and to constantly be available to deal with the trash left, officials said.

Buchanan said the park only had two people on the maintenance staff and the shooting range maintenance would take up a significant amount of their time.

”The DNR was reluctant on taking on the cleanup,” Buchanan said of another reason an agreement could not be reached.

Park officials said there are still options for gun range enthusiasts.

The Henderson Wilds range near Williamstown is available. People have to pay a fee to shoot there, but the range is staffed with range masters and trained staff.

Couch said it is no different than paying to play at a golf course open to the public.

People Couch has talked to said they like shooting at Henderson Wilds as it does not have many of the issues prevalent at the Mountwood range.

”It is growing and expanding,” Couch said of Henderson Wilds.

Buchanan hopes the DNR can find a location locally to set up a gun range like it has done in other locations across the state.

”I am sure the DNR has the availability of locations to build a range,” he said. ”If they were willing to put the kind of money they were planning to put (at Mountwood Park), they can pursue and put another property together (in Wood County),” Buchanan said.

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