Features — 09 July 2013


Range Action Specialists to the Rescue

This special range-consulting service already produced a list of success stories

Don Takeoka, Tony Sturgess & Bob Murata SC 3-2013
Thanks to assistance from the Range Action Specialists program, shooters like Don Takeoka, Tony Sturgess and Bob Murata will have the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon at the Seattle Skeet & Trap Club sporting clays course well into the future.

Like many outdoor shooting facilities around the country, the Seattle Skeet and Trap Club is located on public property where its future depended on renewal of a long-term lease. Nestled in the pines southeast of Seattle, Wash., the SST is part of the King County Shooting Sports Park and has been since June 1997. When its lease came up for renewal, SST management hoped to expand the range and its offerings, but partway through the negotiation process those plans came to an abrupt halt.

“We had been working for two years with the county on a lease amendment to accommodate expansion of the range and other needed development,” said an SST spokesman. “The lease negotiation came to a stop when the county questioned not only the new range design, but the original design as well.”

Facing an unknown future, the folks at SST knew they had to eliminate the county’s concerns with the range design if they were to successfully complete the lease-amendment negotiations. In order to do that, they also needed help from someone with the experience to guide them through the process.

“Government organizations want professional references for all aspects of development projects, so we knew we needed assistance from someone with a lot of uncontestable experience, and from a reputable engineering firm. You have to understand their [King County’s] point of view; they have no range-design experts on staff,” the SST spokesman said.

Range Action SpecialistsThe next step was finding such a resource, someone who could guide the club through the design and hearing processes while easing the county’s fears. So, the club turned to the National Shooting Sports Foundation and its team of Range Action Specialists, who offer a relatively new service to members only. SST management asked for a range-design specialist from a reputable engineering company, and that is just what they got in Scott Kranz.

Kranz, a senior project manager at URS Corporation in Portland, Ore., has been helping range managers with environmental compliance programs, safety solutions and range design for nearly 15 years.

“My role as a Range Action Specialist,” said Kranz, “is to help ranges develop and grow, educate range operators in regard to environmental compliance and support safe range design that benefits the community.”

Kranz completed a thorough review of SST documents, had in-depth conversations with SST and conducted a lengthy on-site evaluation of the project, so he had a firm understanding of the situation before completing his assessment of the club’s range design. His work resulted in the King County Council’s decision to adopt the SST lease agreement on Dec. 10, 2012. Now the club is working with a different county department to secure the required Conditional Use Permits. That process also requires a professional reference for range-design permitting, and SST was able to reuse Kranz’s range assessment for their permit application.

SST management said Kranz made all the difference and helped them do just what they set out do: alleviate the county’s concerns about their existing range design and their plans for expansion.

Youthful shooters at SST
New, young shooters gather at the Seattle Skeet & Trap Club for a special event focused on introducing youth to the shotgun sports.

“Scott has performed several range-design projects for not only recreational ranges, but large military and law enforcement ranges as well,” SST said. “His range-design assessment and recommendations came from someone with great credibility. This is what made the county more comfortable.”

From Kranz’s perspective, one of the things that helped with the process at SST was the fact that range management took the time to get a thorough understanding of what King County was looking for, that is, what their concerns about the range actually were.

When seeking approvals from regulatory bodies, it is important that range managers ask good questions. They need to fully understand what is being asked and what information must be collected to fulfill the requirements, Kranz explained.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the questions,” Kranz said. “We have most likely seen your issue before and can hopefully find you an easy solution,” he said.

Failure to completely answer those questions could result in a project delay.

Zach Snow is manager of shooting promotions and range liaison for the NSSF. He oversees the Range Action Specialists program and describes it as “a team of professional consultants that have the experience and the knowledge to really assist with the challenges a range may be facing.”

Snow said there are a variety of areas where the Range Action Specialists can be of assistance, but to date “the services we have provided include everything from conceptual design and developing ranges, on-site safety assessments, developing site-specific environmental stewardship plans, range compliance programs, and serving as expert witnesses when facing planning boards for permitting.”

One of the overarching goals of the Range Action Specialists program is to encourage range managers to be more proactive in their management practices rather than reactive. Snow wants them to evaluate range safety and ask such questions as “Are we set up in a way (that) we are not going to be at risk down the road from the standpoint of regulatory law, or from a neighbor being able to get us on something?”

Don Turner is another member of the Range Action Specialists team. His resume includes experience with the development of Arizona’s Ben Avery Shooting Facility and the Clark County Shooting Complex in Las Vegas, Nev., among others. He said the team’s work is based on best management practices, which for shooting facilities focus primarily on three things: safety, bullet containment and waste control.

“If you have policies, procedure and structure design that do those three things, then you don’t have any lawsuits and you don’t have any problems,” Turner said. “Of course, add in noise and OSHA concerns for employees. All of these things make best management practices.”

Of course, what is best for one facility may not be best for the next one.

“Every range is site specific,” Snow said. “It is all dependent on the activities that are done on that particular range. The Range Action Specialists are going to begin by asking the range manager, ‘What exactly do you do on this particular range?’”

One area in which shooting facilities are facing increased scrutiny is environmental stewardship. Snow said that according to Hannah Niane, a former employee with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and member of the Range Action Specialists team, the Obama administration has given that agency a directive to closely examine shooting ranges for compliance issues. The hotspots are facilities that have been around a while and may not be in compliance with new regulations. That is where Environmental Stewardship Plans (ESP) come into the picture.

Although the Santa Lucia Sportsmen’s Association has done its best to remain in compliance with the standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency, its board of directors opted to take a proactive approach by creating an Environmental Stewardship Plan (ESP) for its facility. It enlisted help from the Range Action Specialists team.

“Our goal was to put in place an established ESP to guide environmental management of lead and other shooting-associated materials consistent with applicable regulations and case law to minimize potential legal, regulatory, and financial liabilities,” said Gary Hazard, a member of the association’s board of directors. “We felt that having a specialized consultant would assist us in performing a site assessment, establish a plan of action, develop schedules and responsibilities for implementing the plan, etc.”

The specialist sent to help the association was Dick Peddicord, Ph.D., whose area of expertise is assisting ranges to operate within environmentally sound and sustainable limits and consistent with case law and regulatory bounds. Peddicord immediately put board members at ease by welcoming their involvement from the start and throughout the planning process.

“Mr. Peddicord gained the confidence of our directorate by working hand in hand with the selected board members and sharing his expertise to guide them through the development of the ESP for our organization,” Hazard said. “[He]clearly outlined his scope of work, reviewed information we provided about our range to assist in the development of the ESP, performed an on-site inspection of our range and facility with selected board members and provided a draft of the complete ESP for our review and comment, followed by the final document, which included comments submitted by our board.”

The Santa Lucia Sportsmen’s Association implemented the recommendations outlined in its new ESP and are monitoring their facility and management practices to ensure they remain in compliance with that plan.

In the three years since the Range Action Specialists program was created, more than 20 shooting facilities from around the country have utilized the expertise found among RAS team members. This is a members-only service, and the NSSF does provide some financial assistance so facilities can take advantage of it.

“We will pick up a portion of the cost of the services provided by the specialists as well as their travel expenses,” said Snow. “The amount of financial assistance is calculated on a case by case scenario. It also is dependent on the scope of the project.”

High Overall Girls  & Boys WSCTP
Top shooters celebrate following a Washington Scholastic Clays Target Program even held at the Seattle Skeet & Trap Club in King County, Wash. Now that its lease has been extended, the SST will continue to offer such events to the upcoming generation.

Would the folks at the Seattle Skeet & Trap Club or the Santa Lucia Sportsmen’s Association recommend the Range Action Specialists program to another facility?

“Yes,” said the SST spokesperson. “This is because the shooting range industry must strengthen its range-management reputation. Certainly we all try to manage our ranges responsibly, but we need to keep doing more because, one could say, we are being scrutinized more and more. Range managers need to understand that having professional references behind our range management and development help to strengthen the range’s credibility.”

Hazard said the Santa Lucia Sportsmen’s Association “would highly recommend this service to other range managers without hesitation. The challenges faced by sporting associations have intensified throughout the years. The objective of every range manager should remain focused on being consistent with applicable regulations to minimize potential legal, regulatory and financial liabilities required in the day-to-day operations of his or her range. This program undoubtedly provides the tools necessary to establish and maintain a successful ESP.”

NSSF members can arrange for the services of the Range Action Specialists team of experts by submitting a request form that is available online at www.nssf.org/ranges/ras. Not a member of NSSF? Visit its website, where you can view a video on the value of membership.

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