Ohio Division of Wildlife's new gun range near Delaware could open in December

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
Contractors pour asphalt Oct. 31 at the Ohio Division of Wildlife's new gun range on state Route 229 in Delaware County. The state has spent about $8.8 million in federal wildlife-restoration excise-tax funds on the project, which replaces a smaller nearby range that had been shut down because of frequent flooding.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s leaders predict firearms enthusiasts will have a blast at the rebuilt gun range on state Route 229 in Delaware County.

The previous range sat slightly to the west of the new facility and was closed in 2017 because it flooded about twice a year, said the division’s outdoor-education program manager, Eric Postell.

Finishing touches are being made at its $8.8 million replacement, and contractors have until mid-December to finish their work, he said.

"But we are doing our best to accelerate the schedule as much as possible," he said. 

Compared to the old range, the new site, at 1110 state Route 229 in Ashley, has just about everything, Postell said. 

The previous range had an area where rifle shooters could practice out to 100 yards, with benches for eight shooters, Postell said. It also had a range where about 10 people could shoot pistols at short range.

The new range will have enough benches to allow 91 people to shoot at a time, he said.

Shooting distances will range from 50 feet, where 36 people can shoot pistols at once, to 100 yards, with 30 positions for shooting rifles, he said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources website states, "The ODNR provides public shooting ranges so Ohio’s sportsmen and sportswomen have safe places to practice with their hunting implements."

That includes shotguns and archery gear, and the range won't neglect them, either.

The range will have an area for shotguns, with clay-target throwers provided. Postell said the shot falling from those fields would land on the old shooting-lane site.

The archery area will have a field range with targets out to 90 meters. Targets will be at varying distances at an elevated platform for practice from tree stands, and the area will have a walking course with 14 shooting positions, Postell said. 

“I am proud of the work being done to promote outdoor recreation in Ohio. Once complete, the Delaware shooting range will give shooting enthusiasts a great facility to safely hone their skills,” ODNR director Mary Mertz said. 

In addition to the expanded shooting areas, the renovated range will have two restrooms and an indoor education-and-training facility, Postell said.

"That facility is kind of our ground zero for a lot of our programming we conduct at the Division of Wildlife," Postell said.

That includes training the public about archery and firearms, as well as training instructors and holding programs in partnership with other organizations, he said.

Because the previous range was so small, the shooters would agree when to call a cease-fire to check the targets downrange, Postell said.

The new range is far too large for that, he said. Employees of the range will call the ceasefires.

"There's going to be a lot more control. There's a surveillance system with cameras. ... We can watch and make sure our staff and the public stay safe when they're on the range," Postell said.

The Division of Wildlife still is finalizing all the procedures that will be in place at the range, he said.

One likely process will be for shooters to tell range employees how many shots they fired before they leave the range. Postell said that will help the division keep track of the total number of shots fired, a detail needed for the scheduling of lead reclamation from the shooting backstops.

Unlike the old range, the new range will be open year-round, he said. Hours have yet to be scheduled and likely will vary among the seasons, he added.

The cost to shoot at the range will be $5 a day or $24 a year, he said. Range passes may be purchased at any vendor handling hunting and fishing licenses, or at wildohio.gov.

The closest vendor to the range is Norton Sporting Goods at Waldo, just off U.S. Route 23. 

When the new range opens, the existing free archery range on the northeast side of the Delaware Wildlife Area -- on Prospect-Mount Vernon Road in Morrow County -- will be taken down, Postell said.

"It doesn't make sense for us to maintain two archery ranges. We're going to have one that's new, and we won't have vandalism issues (like the range that has no staff on site). It'll be a one-footprint shooting facility," he said. 

ODNR estimates a potential 275,000 shooting enthusiasts live within 50 miles of the shooting range.

Funding for state-run gun ranges comes from the sale of hunting licenses and through the Federal Wildlife Restoration Act, Postell said.

Excise taxes are collected from the sale of sporting goods, including firearms and ammunition, and are returned to the state for wildlife management, hunter education, shooting ranges and other projects, he said.

The Division of Wildlife had intended to have the new gun range open earlier, Postell said.

The division leases the site from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the project led to a two-year property assessment by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, he said.

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