Clatsop County's lengthy search for a new shooting range to serve local police and the public may be over.
An advisory group charged with finding a site reported to the county commissioners Wednesday that it has located a piece of property on Oregon Highway 202 that appears to meet all the necessary criteria.
The county has been seeking a site for a shooting range that could serve not only local law enforcement agencies but also private citizens and organized shooting competitions. It is envisioned as an alternative to the various local ranges used by area police departments, most of which are too small, face pressure from encroaching development or have other drawbacks.
John Wubben, former Clatsop Community College president and chairman of the advisory committee, said the group has located a 75-acre, privately-owned parcel near Highway 202's milepost 15, about three miles south of the Klaskanine River hatchery.
The property seems to meet most of the requirements the committee was told to consider, Wubben said. It's centrally located, surrounded by hills, has space for parking and support facilities, and the nearest residence is at least a mile and a half away. And there's enough space for ranges of various sizes for handgun, rifle and shotgun shooting.
"The group walked over it, and concluded that it was an excellent site in most respects," he said.
The committee examined existing shooting ranges around the region and found they all have drawbacks of one kind or another, Wubben said. The ranges at Rilea Armed Forces Training Center in Warrenton, for example, are not open to the public, he said, and another facility in Clatskanie is too far away.
Aside from the 114 local law enforcement personnel who require regular firearms training and qualification, the advisory group has tallied more than 3,700 hunters and 3,000 concealed weapon permit holders who would be potential users of the range, Wubben said.
The advisory group has already formed a private, nonprofit group, the Clatsop Firearms Safety Training Association, that will be in charge of operating any new county shooting range. Interest in the project is evident in the fact that the group already has almost 100 members, even without an actual range in place, Wubben said.
The new site has some drawbacks of its own, Wubben said. It has no electrical service, and the nearby Klaskanine River will require measures to ensure that lead bullets and other contaminants don't get into the water, he said.
And some local police departments have expressed concern about the site's location, which is about 25 minutes' drive from both Astoria and Seaside, he said.
But Chief Deputy Paul Williams of the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office said the agency likes the site, since its personnel are currently forced to drive five miles farther south on Highway 202 to a makeshift shooting range.
The county commissioners directed staff to begin discussions with the property owner about acquiring the land. County Administrator Scott Derickson said the issue of liability would need to be addressed before any land deal took place.
Funds to build and operate the facility could come from dues, special use fees, donations and grants, Wubben said.
Commissioner Sam Patrick said the owner is open to a possible land trade, providing an alternative means of acquiring the land for the cash-strapped county.