Ohio Department of Natural Resources closed the Delaware Wildlife Area Public Shooting Range for the 2017 season to undergo a $6 million renovation.
Officials said the range, located in the northern part of the county east of U.S. 23 along State Route 229, is scheduled to re-open in 2018.
“This range has been here 40 years,” said Korey Brown, district manager for Wildlife District One of central Ohio. “It’s been a pretty big driver of the local economy we think, especially for Norton’s Sporting Goods down the road.” Brown said shooters using the range purchase guns, ammunition and hunting licenses at Norton’s Sporting Goods.
Norton’s is located west of US Route 23 on State Route 229 near the Delaware Wildlife area and shooting range.
In the 2016 season ODNR reported that 8,960 shooters visited the range, a thousand more visitors than it had in 2015.
Brown said the renovation of the range will be funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, the Pittman-Robertson Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax and the Dingell-Johnson Act. Both acts place excise taxes on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment, which is dedicated to maintain wildlife conservation.
“The money comes from the very people who use the facility,” Brown said, “Twenty years ago it was mostly hunters preparing for the season who used the range. Today I’m going to guess that it’s a more even split. There are more AR15s and more handguns, but also still the traditional shooters with shotguns and muzzle loaders.”
According to ODNR statistics, the sale of firearms has nearly tripled since 2007. Sales for firearms in 2016 were $14.5 million.
“Firearm sales have gone through the roof in the past few years,” Brown said. “We accommodate CCW instructors and also try to balance that against the everyday shooter who use the facility as well.”
Brown said the renovation of the range has been in the making for the last 4 to 5 years.
“From the conceptual to getting architects and engineers involved. Burgess and Niple did a marketing study to determine the size of the facility we should look at building based on the population in the area and the demand.”
Burgess and Niple are engineers and environmental scientists from Columbus who design and build environmental structures and facilities.
Brown said the Delaware Wildlife area encompasses 4,500 acres which the ODNR leases from the US Army Corp of Engineers. He said once parks are added to the wildlife acreage “the whole thing is like 8,500 acres.”
Before construction can begin on the new facility, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has asked ODNR for additional data on the land. The land sits in a floodplain and has been used as a shooting range for many years without lead being recovered.
“The range has been in use for over 50 years, and there is no evidence of any lead recovery being conducted at this site,” said Chuck Minster, public affairs specialist for the Army Corp of Engineers.
“The existing range is located within the floodplain. US Army Corps of Engineers has requested ODNR to perform an assessment to identify and quantify the lead content in the area. ODNR has entered into an agreement with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to undergo the Voluntary Action Program. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had no objection to this process.”
Minster said the assessment may take months by Ohio EPA and once the review is complete, the Army Corp and ODNR will discuss the future of the project.
The shooting range accommodates six positions for rifles, eight positions for handguns and six positions on the other side of the parking lot for hand-thrown target shooting.
“When we expand the facility it will have four hand trap shooting fields, 30 shooting positions at 100-yards, 36 positions at 50-foot pistol range, 24 positions at 25-yard range, 20 positions at the 90-meter archery range, 14 position 3-D archery walkthrough course, a permanent range master building, an indoor archery range, an office space and permanent restrooms,” Brown said.
“The restrooms will be popular with the folks because it used to be a porta-pot.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.