Firing range next to Gastonia public park temporarily closed

Firing range next to Gastonia public park temporarily closed


by RAD BERKY / NewsChannel 36

Bio | Email | Follow: @RadBerkywcnc

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 4 at 12:28 AM

GASTONIA, N.C. -- The city of Gastonia has closed a firing range -- at least for now -- because it is right next door to a public park.

The newly refurbished Rankin Lake Park will reopen later this month.

The city has spent some $3.2 million to renovate the park and open up more land to the public with walkways and trails.

Park users will now be able to walk right next to property housing the Gastonia Park Department's skeet and trap range and the Gastonia Police Department Firearms and Training Facility.

The training facility has a rifle range that was open to the public each Saturday, but not anymore.

City spokesperson Rachel Bagley said it was closed, in part, to make sure it would continue to be as safe as it has been when the park reopens.

"Since that range was opened in 1970, we have not ever had an incident that involved any kind of injury at all," said Bagley.

Bagley also said the city wanted to study if it was still economically worth keeping city employees at the range when it is open to the public.

She said on an average Saturday there are only about 20 people using the rifle range and many of them don't even live in Gastonia.

At the end of the rifle range is a large berm that stops the bullets that are fired at paper targets.

The city said that berm meets or exceeds the standards set for that type of gunfire.

Down the hill at the skeet and trap range, Rankin Lake Park can be easily seen from the line where shotguns are fired at clay pigeons.

Don Wise from the Parks and Rec Department said he was not concerned that a park-goer might accidentally get shot.

"With these?" he asked, holding up a shell. "There is no way."

Wise explained that the rounds used to shoot clay pigeons are not anywhere near as powerful as some of the rounds used at the rifle range.

Hank Benjamin finished shooting a box of rounds and said as he was leaving the range. "I can see why the public would be concerned but at the same time, with the safety precautions that I am sure they are following, I don't think it would be much risk."

Later this month, representatives of the National Rifle Association have been asked to come and review safety procedures at the rifle range.

A final decision will then be made on if it will be reopened to the public.