Public shooting range is an asset to county

Published 9:09 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

Live in the Marengo County area and need a place to sight in your deer rifle or get in a little practice shooting clays? If so, you’re in luck. The Marengo Public Shooting Range, located just off County Road 44 north of Linden, opened last week – the culmination of a partnership formed between the Marengo County Commission and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFFD).

The opening of the Marengo range marks the 11th such facility operated solely or jointly by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Wildlife Section.

“Most of the shooting ranges we have are on our Wildlife Management Areas, where we have people who can maintain the ranges,” explained Gary Moody, Wildlife Section Chief. “When we move into an area where we don’t have those facilities nearby, it takes partners to make things happen. Somebody has to mow the grass; somebody has to open and close the gate; somebody has to watch things to make sure the range is running like it’s supposed to. Partnerships, like this one, are what make that happen.

“Another thing, the Wildlife Section operates partly through the Wildlife Restoration Fund. This is money paid by hunters and shooters. When you buy a gun or a box of shells, you pay an excise tax. That money comes back to the state to run our Wildlife Management Areas, to do our wildlife research and to build shooting ranges. If you’re a sport shooter, if you’re a hunter, you helped pay for this facility. It’s yours and we want you to use it and help us take care of it.”

Moody credited Marengo County Commissioner Fred Armstead as a driving force behind completion of the range. Armstead, in turn, said the range would not have built without the efforts of Jim Stanford of Robertson Banking.

“This is going to be a great asset for Marengo County,” Armstead said. “It’s going to be a great asset for the adjoining counties, as well. Law enforcement will use this, as well as the general public. And let me say, we could not have done it without the help of Jim Stanford.”

Moody said it took about a year to get the range from idea to fruition, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

“This is a busy time of year, and we wanted the hunters to have a place to get their rifles sighted in,” Moody said. “When you come out here, you might find law enforcement using the range. It’s for them to enjoy, not only off-duty, but they will also be doing some on-duty training out here, also. This facility will be for multi-function use, which will make it more valuable for the county.”

The only requirement for the public to use the range is either a valid hunting license or Wildlife Heritage License. Alabama residents 65 years and older are exempt from the requirement.

The shooting benches – five on the 25-yard section and five on the 100-yard section – were made by students of Clifton McKnight at Demopolis High School and Rudy Parker at Linden High School. The Marengo County Sheriff’s Department (Sheriff Jessie Langley) will be in charge of opening and closing the gate. Moody said others who contributed to the construction were Warden Leon Bolen of the State Cattle Ranch and Rod Laduron of Alabama Tractor Company.

Ray Metzler, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Hunter Education Coordinator, said finding suitable property is the largest hurdle to public shooting ranges.

“It took about a year to find this piece of property,” Metzler said of the Marengo range. “Jim Stanford and I had been looking for property. I told Jim if he could find a piece of property we would build it. We looked and looked and looked.

“We had to get the plat books and make sure a site met the requirements, like fallout zone. We finally found this piece of property and it belonged to the county. They were agreeable to letting us build the range as long as it didn’t interfere with the old landfill part. This was an area where they had removed the topsoil to use on the landfill area.”

Metzler said the shooting range construction follows National Rifle Association guidelines.

“This property meets those criteria,” he said. “There are wooded areas and pasture behind the range. The berm is 28 feet tall with targets at 25, 50 and 100 yards.”

Metzler also said the public shooting ranges get “phenomenal” use, and he expects the Marengo range will be heavily utilized.

“People are looking for a place to shoot, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find a place,” he said. “We’ve had calls from all around the state from people wanting us to partner with them to build a range, and I do try to work it out any time I can. We’re looking at Choctaw County right now.

“We’d like to find places in urban areas, like Jefferson County or around Montgomery. But that’s a little tougher because of the fallout zone and noise.”

A list of the other WFFD public ranges follow:

Barbour Co. WMA Range

County Road 49, Midway

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

Telephone: 334-529-3222

Cahaba WMA Range

County Road 91, Helena

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

Telephone: 205-339-5716

Coosa County WMA Range

County Highway 29, Rockford

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

Telephone: 334-242-3469

Etowah Public Range

Owl’s Hollow Road, Gadsden

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

Telephone: 256-435-5422

Freedom Hills WMA Range

8 miles south of Cherokee

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Bow

Murphy WMA Firing Range

Cannon Creek Road, Guin

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

South Sandy Shooting Range

USFS Road 706, Duncanville

Type: Rifle, Pistol, Shotgun

Telephone: 205-339-5716


Skyline WMA Firing Range

Highway 146, Skyline

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Bow

Telephone: 256-587-3114

Swan Creek WMA Range

Harris Station Road, Tanner

Type: Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol

Telephone: 256-353-2634

Upper Delta WMA

St. Lukes Church Road, Stockton

Type: Rifle, Pistol, Shotgun

Telephone: 251-626-5474