State targets Cameo parcel for gun range

Bill authorizing purchase gets bipartisan legislative backing

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources hopes by the end of this year to go ahead with purchasing the old Cameo power plant site to open a new outdoor shooting range there.

That is to be made possible thanks to a bill in the Colorado Legislature to give the agency the authority to go ahead with the purchase as long as the price is right, the department can find the money and there are no environmental concerns, department Executive Director Mike King told the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, which approved the bill on a 10-3 vote Wednesday.

King said the project to create the Cameo Sports Shooting Complex at the site is part of a greater Division of Parks and Wildlife plan to encourage more people to get into shooting sports and hunting, which have been declining “at an alarming rate” in the state.

Hunting and fishing license sales are a major source of revenue for the department, he said.

The measure, HB1275, allows the division to obtain state appropriations, grants or federal contributions to purchase some of the 872 acres owned by Xcel Energy and Snow Cap Mining Co. at the site, located on the west end of De Beque Canyon.

“What you need is a facility that’s close to an urban area, but not too close,” he said. “This one has a unique circumstance where there are really no neighbors and yet it is within 10 to 12 miles of Grand Junction. I think we found a sweet spot here.”

The bill, introduced by Democrats and Republicans from both sides of the Continental Divide, including Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, heads to the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill doesn’t include any taxpayer money to pay for the project or buy the land. It only gives the division the authority to purchase it from other sources.

The division has long-range plans to build two new ranges in each of its four regions of the state, and has identified the Cameo site as one with the best prospects here. It offers $500,000 annual grants for such projects.

The division recently helped open the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex on land owned by Fort Carson. That 400-acre facility, which includes 120 shooting positions on seven ranges, was a joint project between local, state and federal authorities. It now is the largest public range in the state.

Though the Cameo range is projected to be smaller, about 67 shooting positions, it still would be a major economic boon for the region, Palisade Mayor Roger Granat and Palisade Town Administrator Richard Sales told the committee.

“Palisade has long been known as the peach capital of the United States, and more recently is the home of many award-winning wines,” Granat said. “But as with most agricultural communities, people seem to view this as a seasonal reason for visiting our area. From mid-October until late June, businesses in Palisade struggle to stay open. The Cameo development ... is a driver to work those these difficult seasons.”

Granat said long-range plans call for more than just private shooters to use the range, but also to organize formal shooting contests, which would bring more tourism to Palisade and elsewhere in the Grand Valley.

The division is looking to the shooting complex to be more than just about shooting at targets. There also are plans to do other things, such as offer hunter safety courses, outdoor education activities and have archery shooting, too.

The five parcels that the division are looking at — and it likely won’t purchase all of them — are valued at about $880,000, according to a legislative fiscal analysis of the bill.

Though the measure cleared the committee overwhelmingly, the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Three Republican lawmakers voted against it, with one questioning whether it was the proper role of government to create a shooting range.

“I don’t think this is a function of government,” said Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono. “If there’s demand, the private market should respond to that demand.”

Other Republicans, however, said it is entirely appropriate for the state to help establish shooting ranges, particularly when it expects to turn it over to private operators once it’s all set up.

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said other benefits exist in promoting the use of firearms in a responsible manner, saying it’s a great way to support people’s Second Amendment rights.


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