Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Firing range hits its target

Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new shooting range on Graham Road near Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area in Jacksonville turned out even better than expected. Gov. Mike Beebe led the ceremonies and another $50,000 was donated to the project that’s estimated to cost $2.1 million. Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation chairman Bobby Martin announced the anonymous donation minutes before the governor spoke.

The Game and Fish Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, will fund $1.5 million of the project. Jacksonville will pay for the rest, starting with $130,000 from the city’s advertising and promotion commission.

Once completed, the new facility, which will consist of 14 shooting ranges, will be the new home of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program’s state tournament. The AYSSP is the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 7,000 people involved each year.

The firing range will be easily accessible from Cabot, Beebe, Lonoke, Carlisle and surrounding communities. Last year, more than 6,000 students and 1,000 volunteer coaches took part in AYSSP competitions. There are four regional tournaments each year and a state tournament. Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 competitors take part in each regional event, bringing a much-needed boost to Jacksonville’s economy.

“These kids come with their parents, grandparents, friends and relatives,” Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) said at the groundbreaking. “That’s four solid weekends of 6,000 to 7,000 people coming into your city. Based on the formula used by the trap association, it’s a $4 million impact on the city annually.

“The Game and Fish wanted to know if we could have it ready by March,” Perry said. “That’s when the high school shooting tournaments start. Tommy Bond (project engineer) said we’d need to have shovels in the dirt in October. So we’re being aggressive about getting this under way.”

Kudos to Perry and fellow shooting enthusiast Philip Carlisle, who headed the drive for this impressive project. Thanks also to Mike Wilson and Jim Peacock for selling the 160 acres at a discounted price of $3,000 an acre.

Bidding for facility construction will be 2 p.m. Thursday at the mayor’s office with winning bids likely announced at the Jacksonville City Council meeting that night. Construction could be completed in March, which will herald a new era for Jacksonville and surrounding communities.