No timeline yet — if any — to reopen Pleasant Hope shooting range, officials say

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The unstaffed Missouri Department of Conservation shooting range has been closed since July 23.
The unstaffed Missouri Department of Conservation shooting range has been closed since July 23.

A popular public shooting range has been closed for several months and its future is in jeopardy.

Pleasant Hope Conservation Area will remain closed due to rules violations and population growth, officials say. Needed upgrades are also currently being discussed, but may not happen at all.

The unstaffed Missouri Department of Conservation shooting range has been closed since July 23.

MDC's Education Section Chief Kyle Lairmore told the News-Leader via email that some of the common rules visitors violated included:

  • A requirement that users only shoot from shooting benches and never in front of the firing line;

  • Using only paper targets attached to the target holders provided;

  • The use of single projectiles only (no shot) on the rifle/handgun range;

  • No rapid fire, with at least three seconds between each shot.

The site evaluation called for significant upgrades in order to maintain safe operation, MDC shooting range coordinator Justin McGuire said.

"Unfortunately, those upgrades just aren’t possible in its current location,” McGuire said. "In this case, adding side berms and raising the height of the backstop require a much larger footprint than the space that is currently available."

Each alteration also would have to fit into the larger picture of trails, hunting activities and private residences in neighboring areas, according to McGuire.

"Therefore, we are going to explore other options to see if there is a better location to build an unstaffed shooting range for the public to use," McGuire added.

At this time, there is no set timeline on next steps or when decisions will be made on future locations.
At this time, there is no set timeline on next steps or when decisions will be made on future locations.

In documents requested by the News-Leader, MDC Regional Administrator Max Alleger outlined those options following a site evaluation Aug. 5. With a series of slides, Alleger laid out the current situation and alternative solutions to bring the range up to standards.

"However, not all these options are seen as feasible due to the 'foot-print' needed to meet standards within the confines of the topography, elevation, and current access road location," Alleger stated in the report.

There are also environmental concerns with designing a new or modified range facility, according to the evaluation report.

"One is the unknown process and cost of lead remediation," Alleger stated. "The other concern is a design to avoid major issues with the intermittent stream which runs along the 100 yard and 25-yard range."

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At this time, there is no set timeline for next steps or when decisions will be made on future locations.

“We don’t want to give people a timeline when we, quite honestly, don’t know how long it will take to explore all the options,” McGuire said. “I know it’s not the answer the users of the Pleasant Hope Range want to hear, but for now, all we can say is that we apologize for the inconveniences the closure of the range is causing and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”

What do those options look like?

There are also environmental concerns with designing a new or modified range facility, according to the evaluation report.
There are also environmental concerns with designing a new or modified range facility, according to the evaluation report.

There are options being considered, but a new plan would require engineering design before final decisions could be made, Alleger said in his evaluation report.

The first three options would be to shift the current configuration of the range by raising or lengthening the berms. All would require "extensive excavation" along with relocating the access road.

"All of these do not seem feasible to the group without major renovations, cultural (and) environmental reviews, and likely associated permits," Alleger stated.

The fourth option would be to reverse the direction of the range.

The site evaluation called for significant upgrades in order to maintain its safe operation.
The site evaluation called for significant upgrades in order to maintain its safe operation.

"This would require major renovations and has very concerning area user conflicts since the new downrange impact area would encompass the north access road as well as segments of the multi-use trail system used by horseback riders, hikers, and hunters," Alleger said in his report.

The fifth option would keep the range open but reduce the size of the range from a multi-distance range of 25 yards and 100 yards to a single-distance range of 50 yards. This would be done by shifting the range to the north, into what is now the parking area.

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"This alternative could allow the needed berms to be constructed between the access road and the stream running parallel to the right berm," Alleger stated. "At present this appears to be the most viable option to allow continued use of the range. However, engineering design will be needed before selection of this or other alternatives."

The final option would permanently close and remove all shooting range infrastructure. If taken, this route would likely mean closing the access road to eliminate or reduce unauthorized use.

"If only the shotgun/trap range is left open, it would only complicate the use of that range for unsafe discharge of rifle/pistol ammunition without the proper backstops and berms in place," Alleger said. "This option would of course meet great resistance from the public. There are no other shooting ranges within reasonable driving distance for many of these area users, with Andy Dalton Shooting Range being the closest range."

People wanting to shoot in this area can use other unstaffed shooting ranges MDC operates across the state, including Lead Mine Conservation Area in Dallas County, Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area in Christian County, Flag Spring Conservation Area in Barry County, and Fort Crowder Conservation Area in Newton County.

The Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center in Greene County is one of five staffed shooting ranges MDC operates in the state. Information about MDC’s staffed and unstaffed shooting ranges in the state can be found at: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/find/places/mdc-ranges.

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at skarnes@springfi.gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Pleasant Hope shooting range remains closed, no timeline yet to reopen

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