Shooting range coming into focus


Planners of a public shooting range at Puuanahulu still don’t have an estimated cost for the site, but they do have a preliminary site plan and an idea of which amenities would come first.

PBR Hawaii consultant Catie Cullison outlined the progress toward an environmental assessment, design and funding of the range at a meeting Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The two main concerns range planners are facing now are how to mitigate the sounds of the gunfire and how to prevent lead from leaching into the ground, she said.

Cullison went with a sound engineer during gunfire tests to locations at varying distances from the proposed gun range locations.

“None of the shooting sounds exceeded the ambient noise, mostly vehicle traffic,” Cullison said. “There were some sounds that were audible.”

She apologized to the roughly two dozen people at the meeting for not being able to provide a cost estimate or more specific project phases. Roger Imoto, Hawaii Island branch manager for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said Gov. Neil Abercrombie had agreed to include $3.25 million in the state’s capital improvement project budget, which will be sent to the Legislature when its session begins early next year.

The state will need to seek grants, federal funding and private money to fully build the shooting range, Cullison said. She said the earliest phases would likely include a sporting clay course, a 200-yard rifle range and an area for archery.

One meeting attendee questioned why the range would open a sporting clay course before an action pistol course.

Richard Hoeflinger, president of nonprofit On Target, a private group that organized to pursue a public shooting range, and which has pressed the DLNR to begin planning the range, explained the decision.

“Think in terms of revenue,” Hoeflinger said. “The money is in shooting sports.”

Curtis Tyler, who is also involved in On Target, said this was the farthest any plan for a public range in West Hawaii has gotten in 30 years.

“Growing up here, there were no rules about shooting,” Tyler said. “We’d go down to the shore and shoot.”

That’s no longer legal, but island residents want a place to shoot, he added.

“The awareness is increased,” Tyler said. “People want to teach their children. This grew out of citizens who live here who said this is a problem.”

Cullison said a draft environmental assessment should be done some time early next year.

Other range amenities that could eventually be built include a 1,000-yard rifle range, a trap and skeet area, action ranges and hunter education areas. Cullison said the design also sets aside land and room for a separate entrance road for law enforcement, if any law enforcement agency would like to develop its own range.