COLUMBIA — By hunting season, local shooters will be able to use the new and improved shooting ranges at Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area. The Conservation Commission approved upgrades to the shooting ranges at the conservation area in a unanimous vote on Friday.
The project calls for "overall improvements to the range," said Jacob Careaga, the project's design and development chief.
There are two shooting ranges at Rocky Fork Lakes, — one for rifles and handguns and the other for shotguns. The ranges are free for everyone.
The goal of the improvements is to make it more convenient and more comfortable for the shooters who go there, Careaga said.
Some of the improvements include putting four shooting pavilions to shelter shooters and raising the heights of the berms, or small sand hills that protect against stray bullets, in the back of the shooting range. There will also be a fence around the parking lot.
Eric McGill, an Army reservist, said that adding the shooting pavilions would make it so that people could come shoot at the ranges even if the weather is not ideal.
The addition of concrete shooting pads at the shotgun range will also be an improvement over the quagmire some shooters have to stand in during rough weather.
"Right now, if it rains you're basically standing in mud at the shotgun range," said Chris Rice, an avid shooter at the range.
The cost of the improvements is estimated to be $223,016; the contract for the construction will go to Cannon Construction out of Troy.
The construction is scheduled to start sometime in July. The Department of Conservation will release the exact construction date later.
"We have a cutoff date for the construction on the ranges of Oct. 15," project engineer Dale Parsons said. "We want to be able to open the ranges back up for the deer hunters."
The fact that the range will be closed for a long period of time is a drawback for many shooters.
It's not ideal that the improvements will take so long, Rice said, but he thought that the end results will make the range better.
"The shooting range gets a lot of shooters. We want to make it a better experience for them," Parsons said.
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