Hickenlooper christens range at Cameo
Fortunately, he hit his target.
It can’t have been easy aiming 100 yards downrange with about 150 people watching, but Gov. John Hickenlooper sighted the custom 6.5 Creedmoor rifle, made for the occasion by Mesa Precision Arms, squeezed the trigger when he was ready and sent the target spinning. He jokingly wiped his forehead with relief afterward.
His was the ceremonial first shot Saturday morning at the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex, which has been more than six years in the planning and is quickly becoming a goal realized.
The nearly 2,000-acre area at the west end of De Beque Canyon, when it is completed, will be a resource for training, practice, education and competitive events, said JT Romatzke, Grand Junction area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“The ground where we stand right now is home to what will be one of the finest shooting facilities in the nation,” he told the audience Saturday.
Hickenlooper praised the facility, which Romatzke said is tentatively set to open to the public Jan. 1, 2018, for being a successful collaboration between multiple stakeholders.
“The local community really drove this,” Hickenlooper said, mentioning a synergy between the shooting facility and the ongoing Palisade Plunge mountain biking trail project. “When you start putting world-class shooting facilities with world-class mountain bike trails, that’s how brands and reputations are created.”
After negotiations with Xcel Energy and Snowcap Coal Co., the town of Palisade acquired the land for the shooting facility in September, made possible by a $2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and an additional $2 million committed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Bob Randall, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said holding the ceremonial first shot at the facility on Colorado Public Lands Day was meaningful because it signified Colorado “developing a deeper connection to the natural resources that make our state so special.”
The shooting facility, and the goal of drawing world-class shooters, will be an economic boon to the area, said Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“A day or two of shooting can be combined with other activities in the area,” he said.
While the number of licensed hunters in Colorado is declining and their average age is rising, Randall said the Cameo complex has the potential to connect younger people with wildlife and public lands.