People who like to practice target shooting in Clear Creek County — especially near the Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout — may be out of luck this summer.
Some areas on public lands may be closed to target-shooting, U.S. Forest Service Ranger Penny Wu told the Clear Creek County commissioners on April 22. If the Sheriff’s Office continues to receive complaint calls about certain Forest Service areas, “emergency closure orders” may be put in place in coming months, Wu said. She mentioned Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout and Barbour Fork Trailhead as two areas that have grown increasingly popular with target shooters in recent years. The Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout is above Squaw Pass near Colorado 103; Barbour Fork Trailhead is about 3 miles south of Idaho Springs on Soda Creek Road.
At the same time, two managed shooting areas may open in 2015 on public land, said County Commissioner Tom Hayden. The commissioners are working with U.S. Forest Service officials to find potential locations for the shooting ranges, he said.
“We want to create sites that are safe and clean and attractive for people to go to, and we can close down some of them out in the woods,” Hayden said.
Visitors who want to practice target shooting have nowhere to go in Clear Creek County, so they often pull off the main roads and start shooting in the forests, Hayden said.
The Forest Service has suggested a shooting range be built in an area called Devil’s Nose near Echo Lake along Colorado 103, County Commissioner Tim Mauck said after the April 22 meeting. Another location is being considered near the Clear Creek rodeo grounds in Dumont, Mauck said. Other sites also are being discussed.
A shooting range with an earthen berm could cost less than $75,000 to build, according to information released in 2013 by a task force made up of representatives from Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Larimer counties to find ways to direct random recreational shooting to designated areas.
The task force plans to recommend its top sites for shooting ranges in a “scoping letter” to be delivered to the Forest Service on May 14, Mauck said.
“The Forest Service’s mission is to benefit as many people as possible. With us being 30 minutes from Denver, and with the number of people coming up to recreate in our lands, the dispersed shooting may not be the best idea going forward,” Mauck said.
The Clear Creek County Sportsmen Club thinks a county-sponsored shooting range is a great idea, said president Kathy Hinkle.
“We definitely need more shooting ranges around. A managed site is safer for everyone, and it’s friendlier to the neighbors,” Hinkle said.
Separately, the days of camping any old place on U.S. Forest Service land in in the county also are coming to an end, Wu told county commissioners. “Dispersed camping” will be prohibited soon in West Chicago Creek and South Chicago Creek basins, Wu said. At the same time, the Forest Service plans to upgrade a picnic area to tent camping near the Chicago Lakes Trailhead in the West Chicago Creek drainage, Wu said. A Forest Service campground already exists nearby.
People camping on Forest Service land often stay longer than the allowed 14 days in any 30-day period, Wu said. They also do not always clean up, according to nearby private landowners who complained, Wu said.