AIMING HIGH

Power plant property in sights of shooting-complex planners



Jason Keller, right, of Grand Junction joins about a half-dozen other marksmen as he takes aim at a target with his .223 sniper rifle at the Bureau of Land Management rifle range in the desert off 27 1/4 Road. Keller was a marksmanship instructor and rifle range coach during his U.S. Marine Corps service in the infantry.



Michael Petersen, right, of Grand Junction teaches Spencer Weinberg, also of Grand Junction, how to shoot at the Bureau of Land Management rifle range. Weinberg, who took second place in state in singles tennis, called it a “win-win” situation. “I teach him how to play tennis and he’s teaching me how to shoot,” he said.



Shooters with the Annie Oakley Program practice at one of the specialty nighttime ranges at the renowned Ben Avery Shooting Facility north of Phoenix. The shooting complex is an example of a world-class range that some local leaders would like to see come to the Grand Valley someday. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department



As a kid, Palisade Mayor Roger Granat would take his gun and go shooting on the Cameo property, just up-canyon from town. He was probably trespassing.

He’d like to someday return to the scene of the crime, so to speak — and bring a rifle or two as well.

Granat is one of a number of civic leaders and area sportsmen pitching a plan to turn the sprawling site of the formerly operational Cameo power plant into a fully operational, world-class firearms and archery shooting complex.

“We’re looking at substantial acreage up there, but it is unusable for most people. It’s just ideal for a shooting range,” Granat said.

“There’s going to be no other use, as far as subdivision homes and the like up there,” he said. “We’re not going to have to worry about the neighbors saying that it’s too noisy, because there are no neighbors.”

Other than the speeding traffic of Interstate 70, of course.

Granat’s idea is a grand one. He envisions a complex comparable to the nationally known, 1,650-acre Ben Avery Shooting Facility just north of Phoenix. There you’ll find firearms ranges of all kinds, from as long as 1,000 yards down to 10 meters, and every distance in between. It’s one of the best sporting clays and trap and skeet fields in the nation, it includes multiple archery ranges, and it has a main range with 67 positions at distances from 5 to 200 yards.

“We would like to see something like that here, in the Palisade area,” Granat said.

Plenty of hurdles to overcome

He and others backing the idea have a long haul to get there, though.

For starters, Xcel Energy — owner of about 2,500 acres at Cameo — is in the middle of a years-long process to decommission the power plant there, which was built in the 1950s. The company is in demolition phase now, but it expects to be down to grass by June of next year and completely done in terms of clearing the site by the end of 2013.

Making a clean break at a former coal-fired power plant is nearly impossible, though. State regulators will need to put their stamp of approval on the cleanup before a new project can be contemplated.

Fred Eggleston, area manager with Xcel, adds that the utility company will be liable “forever, basically” for a coal ash disposal site on the property. Likewise, Snowcap Coal, a neighboring landowner, shut down a nearby mine years ago and still conducts monitoring to satisfy state regulators, Eggleston said.

Suitors hoping to develop the Cameo property are being funneled through a different group — the Grand Junction Economic Partnership — which has been assigned the specific challenge of matching the right developer and project with the unique property.

“We’re wide open to all proposals, but we don’t want to be the people to entertain projects out there,” Eggleston said. “That’s not what we do.”

Kelly Flenniken, the partnership’s executive director, said it’s still “early in the game” but called the idea of a shooting complex “an interesting and intriguing idea.”

“There’s tons of interest in what the future is going to look like (at Cameo),” Flenniken said. “Something with that large of an acreage, it has a lot of potential.”

“What we’re really hoping that we can do is work with Xcel to identify what the best future use is going to be out there, so that we make sure we have a positive economic impact for our whole community,” she said.

Project Support

Granat said he’s heard support for the idea from a wide swath of sportsmen’s groups, including the Colorado Mule Deer Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Trout Unlimited expressed an interest in having an educational fly-fishing pond there, Granat said, and even conservation groups like the Audubon Society and Ducks Unlimited have been in contact about the project.

The idea also fits neatly with the overall aims of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which potentially could play some kind of management role in the project, looking well down the road.

“Obviously, we would need to look at the numbers, but (management) is a natural fit,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife statewide spokesman Randy Hampton. He also cited a policy of the former wildlife commission to support the creation of safe, organized shooting ranges across the state.

Local Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras pointed to specific benefits for hunters — to test their equipment, sight in their scopes, and practice proper shooting — in addition to the simple enjoyment many people have with basic target shooting.

“Certainly in Colorado, there’s always the possibility of taking a long-range shot, and that’s not something you just go out and do day one without any kind of practice,” Porras said.

Civic buy-in would be key to developing the project, and Granat has been a party to a number of conversations across the county.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said he’s been “listening in” on those conversations, “knowing that we desperately need a lot more shooting opportunities for people here in Mesa County.”

“It would fulfill the need for more shooting opportunities, but I think there would also be economic benefits to the entire region, including Mesa County, and in particular the east end of the valley,” Acquafresca said.

That idea of broad economic benefit is key to the success of the Ben Avery facility near Phoenix, according to Jay Cook, the shooting sports branch chief with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which manages the complex and is headquartered there.

Cook said about 250,000 people visit Ben Avery every year, and events draw anywhere from 100 to 700 shooters. He laughed when asked whether most weekends are booked by shooting groups.

“Pretty much all of them,” Cook said, adding that user groups of all stripes reserve Ben Avery’s specialty ranges, and law enforcement groups from the Phoenix police to the CIA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use the site for training.

He estimates that Ben Avery generated some $2.6 million in revenue last year, money that was pumped back into operations of the complex.

“It’s a cultural thing with shooters, but it’s also an economic benefit,” Cook said.

Granat is one of a number of civic leaders and area sportsmen pitching a plan to turn the sprawling site of the formerly operational Cameo power plant into a fully operational, world-class firearms and archery shooting complex.

“We’re looking at substantial acreage up there, but it is unusable for most people. It’s just ideal for a shooting range,” Granat said.

“There’s going to be no other use, as far as subdivision homes and the like up there,” he said. “We’re not going to have to worry about the neighbors saying that it’s too noisy, because there are no neighbors.”

Other than the speeding traffic of Interstate 70, of course.

Granat’s idea is a grand one. He envisions a complex comparable to the nationally known, 1,650-acre Ben Avery Shooting Facility just north of Phoenix. There you’ll find firearms ranges of all kinds, from as long as 1,000 yards down to 10 meters, and every distance in between. It’s one of the best sporting clays and trap and skeet fields in the nation, it includes multiple archery ranges, and it has a main range with 67 positions at distances from 5 to 200 yards.

“We would like to see something like that here, in the Palisade area,” Granat said.

PLENTY OF HURDLES TO OVERCOME

He and others backing the idea have a long haul to get there, though.

For starters, Xcel Energy — the owners of about 2,500 acres at Cameo — is in the middle of a years-long process to decommission the power plant there, which was built in the 1950s. The company is in demolition phase now, but it expects to be down to grass by June of next year and completely done in terms of clearing the site by the end of 2013.

Making a clean break at a former coal-fired power plant is nearly impossible, though. State regulators will need to put their stamp of approval on the cleanup before a new project can be contemplated.

Fred Eggleston, area manager with Xcel, adds that the utility company will be liable “forever, basically” for a coal ash disposal site on the property. Likewise, Snowcap Coal, a neighboring landowner, shut down a nearby mine years ago and is still conducting monitoring to satisfy state regulators, Eggleston said.

Suitors hoping to develop the Cameo property are being funneled through a different group — the Grand Junction Economic Partnership — which has been assigned the specific challenge of matching the right developer and project with the unique property.

“We’re wide open to all proposals, but we don’t want to be the people to entertain projects out there,” Eggleston said. “That’s not what we do.”

Kelly Flenniken, GJEP executive director, said it’s still “early in the game” but called the idea of a shooting complex “an interesting and intriguing idea.”

“There’s tons of interest in what the future is going to look like (at Cameo),” Flenniken said. “Something with that large of an acreage, it has a lot of potential.”

“What we’re really hoping that we can do is work with Xcel to identify what the best future use is going to be out there, so that we make sure we have a positive economic impact for our whole community,” she said.

PROJECT SUPPORT

Granat said he’s heard support for the idea from a wide swath of sportsmen’s groups, including the Colorado Mule Deer Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Trout Unlimited expressed an interest in having an educational fly-fishing pond there, Granat said, and even conservation groups like the Audubon Society and Ducks Unlimited have been in contact about the project.

The idea also fits neatly with the overall aims of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who potentially could play some kind of management role in the project, looking well down the road.

“Obviously, we would need to look at the numbers, but (management) is a natural fit,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife statewide spokesman Randy Hampton. He also cited a policy of the former wildlife commission to support the creation of safe, organized shooting ranges across the state.

Local Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras pointed to specific benefits for hunters — to test their equipment, sight in their scopes, and practice proper shooting — in addition to the simple enjoyment many people have with basic target shooting.

“Certainly in Colorado, there’s always the possibility of taking a long-range shot, and that’s not something you just go out and do day one without any kind of practice,” Porras said.

Civic buy-in would be key to developing the project, and Granat has been a party to a number of conversations across the county.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said he’s been “listening in” on those conversations, “knowing that we desperately need a lot more shooting opportunities for people here in Mesa County.”

“It would fulfill the need for more shooting opportunities, but I think there would also be economic benefits to the entire region, including Mesa County, and in particular the east end of the valley,” Acquafresca said.

That idea of broad economic benefit is key to the success of the Ben Avery facility near Phoenix, according to Jay Cook, the shooting sports branch chief with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which manages the complex and is headquartered there.

Cook said about 250,000 people visit Ben Avery every year, and events draw anywhere from 100 to 700 shooters. He laughed when asked whether most weekends are booked by shooting groups.

“Pretty much all of them,” Cook said, adding that user groups of all stripes reserve Ben Avery’s specialty ranges, and law enforcement groups from the Phoenix police to the CIA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use the site for training.

He estimates that Ben Avery generated some $2.6 million in revenue last year, money that was pumped back into operations of the complex.

“It’s a cultural thing with shooters, but it’s also an economic benefit,” Cook said.


COMMENTS

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


TOP JOBS
Search More Jobs





THE DAILY SENTINEL
734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050; M-F 8:00 - 5:00
Editions
Subscribe to print edition
E-edition
Advertisers
Advertiser Tearsheet
Information

© 2015 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy