Saturday, May 03, 2014

TOP STORY >> Beebe calls firing range a big draw

The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation shooting sports complex in Jacksonville held a grand-opening ceremony Thursday with Gov. Mike Beebe helping cut the ribbon for the $3.2 million facility.

The foundation paid $2 million to build the complex, while the rest was funded by the city.

Beebe called the 160-acre complex at 2800 Graham Road “one of the finest — if not the finest — shooting ranges in the region.

“Jacksonville has always had a vision to make the community bigger and better,” Beebe said. “Somebody had to have a vision. This land is absolutely beautiful.”

He said the complex will attract families and will get young people involved in shooting sports “for generations to come and will enrich countless lives.”

Randy Milligan, chairman of the Game and Fish Foundation, said several key Jacksonville residents approached the group about building the complex on the edge of Jacksonville.

He mentioned Mayor Gary Fletcher, state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), Phillip Carlisle, Tommy Bond and former Rep. Mike Wilson, who sold the land to the foundation with his business partner, Jim Peacock.

Milligan said they brought blueprints and a budget, with their goal to have the largest and nicest shooting complex in the South.

The foundation’s youth-shooting sports program, which held its tournaments at the Remington Gun Club in Lonoke County for many years, is now holding events Jacksonville. The program has grown from 500 participants to 4,000, Milligan said.

Fletcher told the crowd of about 200, “It will be one of the major attractions in Arkansas.”

He said people from Louisiana are driving four hours because they heard about the shooting complex.

Fletcher said, when word gets out, Jacksonville is going to see a lot of people coming.

“I think it was a wise investment,” the mayor added.

He thanked the city council and the advertising and promotions commission for backing the range.

Several dozen youngsters were trap shooting before and after the ceremony. They stopped long enough to listen to the speakers at the ceremony.

Thousands of kids from around the state will attend a tournament there this weekend, bringing their families with them and filling up motel rooms.

The multi-use complex is the largest of its kind in the state. It includes 14 trap fields, three skeet overlays, three lit fields, two pavilions, a lake and a 5,100-square-foot clubhouse that has a classroom.

Plans for the site include a 3-D archery range and rifle and pistol ranges. More than 10,000 rounds have been fired at the shooting range since it opened three months ago.

“Visitors are telling me daily how it is the nicest place they have been to,” Kevin House recently told the Jacksonville Parks Commission.

The facility has hosted two major tournaments, with several more scheduled on most weekends during the summer. School teams are using the range during the week. But, after June 1 when school tournaments are done, use during the week will probably fall off.

The range held its first tournament April 12 with 145 participants and another on April 19, which was a Ducks Unlimited event with 390 shooters. Ducks Unlimited donated $3,200 raised during the tournament.

Another regional tournament is being held today with about 1,200 participants.

Call 501-241-2441 to schedule use of the range or rental of the classroom or pavilions.

Not everyone is happy with the new facility though. Some Jacksonville residents, especially those who live across the street, have complained about the noise at the firing range.

And some residents in the nearby Foxwood subdivision farther away say they can hear shooting from the complex.

But officials are discussing planting more trees and building walls to reduce the noise.