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New shooting range will quiet western front

Hood River County's western front will soon be quiet -- bringing a cease fire to the numerous noise complaints filed by neighboring residents.

By spring law enforcement officials will have a new site for their shooting range, one further away from homes than the old quarry currently being used just south of Dee. Hood River Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel said police had to use the gravel pit at least three times each year to keep up weapons proficiency but the echoes thrown off by the rock were often irritating to occupants of dwellings that were sited sometimes only 100 yards away.

In an effort to alleviate that no-win situation, county officials recently capitalized on flood damage and vacated a section of roadway between the east and west fork confluence of Neal Creek west to Booth Hill Road. That move followed a determination by the forestry department that it would not be cost effective to rebuild that section of road. During the winter storm of 1996, more than 5,000 feet of the roadway washed away below Hanel Lumber Company. That deluge created a natural landing and embankment which Sheriff Joe Wampler said would make an ideal backdrop for both handgun and rifle weapons training.

County public works crews will, as time permits, move some earth around this fall so the range will accommodate the 120 feet needed for maximum distance target practice. The forestry department will harvest any trees that need to be removed to accomodate that work. Ultimately, Wampler said the new shooting range will have two areas for handguns and one for rifles.

To alleviate liability concerns the range will be gated and public access prohibited. However, Wampler would like to allow limited and supervised citizen use for hunter safety classes, gun sight-ins prior to hunting seasons, and proficiency tests tied to issuance of a concealed weapons permit.

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