Shooters, residents square off on range Opponents of proposal to continue protests


WESTMINSTER -- South Carroll residents angered that the county proposed an outdoor shooting range in their region plan to meet Wednesday to plot strategy against it.

Shooting enthusiasts and residents from both sides of the Carroll-Howard border near Woodbine clashed at a meeting Wednesday night over the proposal to construct a range at the Hoods Mill Landfill. The range would be in a wooded area off Hoods Mill Road, west of Route 97 and just north of the Patapsco River's South Branch.

About 125 people attended the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board meeting at the Carroll County Education Center. Speakers on both sides of the issue drew raucous applause.

Supporters defended the Department of Recreation and Parks' proposal, saying that private ranges have been closed because of development pressures or are overcrowded. A public range would reduce illegal shooting and provide youth groups a supervised place to practice, they said.

"The county has needed a shooting range for years and they've dragged their feet," said Westminster resident Wayne L. Dorsey. "If you wait, there will be more development and [a shooting range] will be hard to come by."

Nearby residents expressed concern that a shooting range would produce unacceptable noise levels, create accident risks, decrease property values and diminish their quality of life.

"It's very simple," said Debra Randle, who moved to Woodbine two years ago. "We bought land and built a house, and we didn't move here for a shooting range to be built down the road from us."

The residents plan to meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Brandenburg United Methodist Church, Streaker Road and Route 97.

Residents were angered that the county had not informed them of the proposal. They questioned the wisdom of putting a range in a rapidly growing region and were skeptical about allowing volunteers from the Carroll County Sportsmen's Association to supervise the range.

The record will remain open for public comment through this week. The advisory board will then make a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will have the final decision and may schedule a public hearing.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who attended the meeting, said the proposal's supporters deserve "fair consideration" because the county finances other recreation projects. He said he would wait for the advisory board's recommendation before offering an opinion and added that other sites may be considered.

Residents complained about "unanswered questions" concerning hours of operation, noise and safety measures, environmental impact and the types of guns that would be permitted.

Recreation and Parks Director John P. Little said details would be worked out if and when the site is deemed appropriate.

The department has considered other sites, including the Northern Landfill, reservoir property in Union Mills and the state-owned Morgan Run Natural Environment Area. But the Hoods Mill site is the most desirable and the "only option at this point," said Little.

"I'm unaware of an extremely remote location for a shooting range," he said.

"It looks like the only suitable site in this county would be on the moon," said Hap Baker of the Sportsmen's Association, which has been searching for a location for about five years.

The range would be surrounded by walls to deflect noise and provide additional safety.

County Sheriff John H. Brown said he supported the proposal "in the interest of safety."

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