Gastonia considers relocating shooting range following noise complaints

Gastonia is taking aim at possible new locations for its public firearms park.

The Gastonia Skeet and Trap Range has been in its current location – next to Rankin Lake Park – for decades. But with the park more popular than ever after a $3.2 million renovation, some residents have complained about the noise from the range.

The Gastonia City Council recently approved $150,000 to explore possibilities for a new location, and a committee of council members and residents will help research options.

“It’s very early in the game,” said committee member Steve Duncan, former captain of Gastonia Police. “No decision is anywhere close to being made.”

The Rankin Lake Park renovation, completed in 2012, added a walking track around the lake, which put people in the sight line of the shooting range and allowed the noise from the range to easily carry across the water, Duncan said.

The skeet and trap range is adjacent to the Gastonia Police Firearms and Tactical Training Facility where officers train seven days a week. Like the skeet range, the training site also may be relocated, said City Manager Edward Munn.

There is a possibility that the two ranges could be relocated to separate spaces, but the committee has not ruled out a scenario in which they would remain near one another, Munn said.

Duncan noted that the shooting ranges pose no safety risk, with the edge of the park more than 200 yards beyond the scope of the farthest shots from the range.

Noise complaints from park visitors are “light years above” what it was before the renovations, said Chuck Dellinger, director of parks, recreation and cultural services.

But a new location for the shooting range would not only solve the issue of noise pollution, it would also provide the opportunity for a much-needed expansion, city officials said.

The current site has three fields for shooting that are often busy. Moving to a new facility could allow for a larger space, Duncan said.

“It’s really crowded,” he said. “People don’t get to shoot as much as they’d like to.”

The range cannot accommodate any more people; it had 10,000 visitors in the 2013 fiscal year. In recent years, the range has had to turn down groups because of lack of space, Dellinger noted.

More space could allow for the range to expand its offerings, adding more tournaments and shooting leagues, Duncan said.

“There are a lot of things we could add if we’re able to get a new facility,” Duncan said. “But it’s all contingent on size and location, and right now none of those things are possible.”

There is no timeline or budget for the relocation yet. In the coming months, the City Council and committee members will scout out possible sites, evaluate programming costs and attempt to decide how construction will be divided between the city and the private sector, Munn said.

“Everyone’s in agreement that it has to be moved, and we’d like to see it expanded if we move it somewhere,” Duncan said.