Range war

Meadowlake residents by a new gate near the proposed gun range
Credit: Mark Hancock

The Tecumseh-based Quail Ridge Sporting Clays opened that part of its
outdoor shooting range business in February 2012 at S.E. 149th between
Air Depot and Midwest boulevards in the Oklahoma City Water Utilities
Trust (OCWUT)-owned Elm Creek Reservoir reserve, where a future
reservoir could be built to supply OKC and its water customers’ needs.

Protests immediately arose over the noise.

Quail Ridge owner David Martin said he started looking for a different location after just two months there.

“We’re still under negotiations for where we might move it,” he said.

The Oklahoma City Council will consider a special-use permit to operate firearms March 26.

The
leading location for the new range would be OCWUT land at S.E. 119th
and Air Depot, also in the Elm Creek Reservoir reserve. The city has
terminated leases in the area and has agreed to repay Martin $116,855
for cleanup and improvements he made at the 149th Street location.

“There is a demand for the sport in Oklahoma City, but it’s just finding that right place,” said city spokeswoman Kristy Yager.

The
proposed relocation has angered nearby residents of Meadowlake addition
at S.E. 104th north of the location, which falls in the city’s
Southeast Sector Plan.

“Why is public land and public money
being used for private enterprise?” asked avian veterinarian David
Harlin, who lives in Meadowlake. “They’ve come down on us like a gang of
Dobermans on a colony of poodles.”

The protesters have
responded by circulating petitions. Harlin said many of the shooting
range’s supporters come from outside the area and some even outside the
state.

“Their supporters want to come shoot in our neighborhood and then go home to theirs,” Harlin said.

Wary of the watershed
The Meadowlake protesters estimate 13.6 tons of lead was deposited at Quail Ridge’s 149th location during 26 events last year.

In
13 events planned so far this year, they estimate 2,710 shooters taking
100 shots apiece, translating to about 271,000 rounds fired, or about
8.5 tons for those events.

They urge the use of steel shot
instead of lead, which was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency
to hunt waterfowl in 1991. Some shooters do not like to use steel shot,
however, which they say damages the barrels of their guns.

In
2007, Southeast Sector Plan was adopted as an amendment to Oklahoma
City’s 2000-2020 Plan. It noted the importance of protecting “economic
and environmental resources” such as the West Elm Creek Reservoir
preserve and Tinker Air Force Base.

The low densities within
the eastern two-thirds of the sector are beneficial to the health and
sustainability of the natural environment, which includes a distinctly
unique forest ecotype, numerous species of flora and fauna, and an
abundant supply of high-quality surface and ground water. In addition,
this undeveloped land area serves to recharge a major aquifer that
provides water to several municipalities.”

Martin said he will
clean up the current S.E. 149th site when he moves to the new site. And
he said he’ll keep the new one clean.

“We agreed with nearby residents that lead be regularly removed, and that will be done,” Martin said about the new site.

The range may eventually have to move if the reservoir is built to meet the city’s increasing water needs.
Debbie
Ragan, spokeswoman for the city’s utilities department, said the Elm
Creek Reservoir “will be built when needed.” The current forecast, she
said, is about 20 years from now.

A soil analysis performed by
Johnson & Associates, Inc. of Oklahoma City found the proposed
location is suitable for a shooting range.

Timothy Johnson,
president of Johnson & Associates, reported to OKC that the EPA’s
Best Management Practices that Martin has said he intends to follow are
sufficient to protect the area’s ground water.

“The results
indicate the presence of clay just below one foot below the surface of
the majority of the site, providing the necessary impervious barrier to
protect against any possibility of migration of contaminates to a level
that might adversely affect ground water,” he wrote.

Johnson
recommended the EPA Best Practices of keeping the soil acidity between
the pH levels of 6.5 and 8.5, because overly high acidity can make the
lead leech. The levels are currently at 6.23 to 7.95 pH.

But
Matt Stratton of Meadowlakes said he’d asked city officials at a recent
meeting whether they’d allow an auto repair shop at the Elm Creek
Reservation site and was told no.

Matt Stratton
Credit: Mark Hancock

“We can’t understand how this kind of business got into the [Southeast Sector Plan],” Stratton said.  

Ways of wildlife
“Ducks
eat it, thinking it’s food,” said Colette Calame of the lead shot,
which they’re fearful will harm the geese, peregrine falcons and wild
turkeys that regularly reside there. “Then [bald] eagles will eat the
poisoned animal.”

The 2007 Southeast Sector Plan even notes that
the low-density development in the area benefits Tinker by providing
habitat for wildlife that might otherwise be drawn to the base.

“Wildlife can create hazards for airfield operations, such as deer on runways or birds in flight paths.

Additionally,
the proximity of these large, natural open spaces are beneficial for
the base’s operations, which are best suited to occur within low-density
areas of a city,” the plan reads.

Harlin is upset that
migratory wildlife could be poisoned in the area’s narrow Central Flyway
migratory route used by millions of birds, including the endangered
whooping crane, annually for their migration patterns. The Audubon
Society lists the area as a “hot spot” for bird watching.

“What they are doing is seriously unfair to both domestic and wild animals,” he said.

Harlin
said the gunshots will scare domestic, non-hunting dogs when the large
dog park planned near the 40-acre Kitchen Lake opens soon in the area.
There are horseback-riding facilities, motorcycle trails and fields to
fly model airplanes.

He said the noise from aircraft going to Tinker is much different than the gunshot “impulse” noise.


Noise abatement

The
Meadowlake neighbors contend that although decibel levels were within
the city’s noise ordinance restrictions, noises from shotguns going off
are different than sounds of nature, which they moved to their southeast
OKC homes to hear.

A noise study by Marshall Environmental
Management, Inc., hired to assess the noise complaints by the city,
sampled three sites during shooting activities and for 24 hours without
the shooting. Decibel levels on most shooting ranged between the mid-50s
to low 60s decibels.

“It is the opinion of the Certified
Industrial Hygienist (CIH) that, the analytical data resulting from this
survey is compliant with the OKC Noise Ordinance for a receiving land
use district. In this instance, the shooting activities are not
considered a nuisance,” wrote Charles Marshall of Marshall
Environmental.

“Do I want to listen to that all day long?”
asked Stratton of the gunshots and said it’s a lot different to hear
wildlife or barking dogs rather than the crack of gunshots. “They are
willing to make 100 households miserable to make this one guy happy.”  

Martin
said a barking dog is louder than the guns shot at his proposed new
range. He said he plans berms, additional landscaping and specially
designed shooting stands to block noise.

Carol Cole-Frowe

This material falls under the archives category because it was imported from our previous website. It will eventually be filtered into the proper category as time allows.

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