A proposed shooting range in McDowell will be discussed next month by the state wildlife commission.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will hold an informational meeting at McDowell Technical Community College on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. to discuss the construction of a shooting range near Ashworth Road in McDowell County.

The Commission will hear public comments on the proposed project, which would include a rifle range and a pistol range, after an overview presentation and sound study discussion. Following the meeting, Commission staff will present the project, along with public comments, to the Wildlife Commissioners for their consideration at a future business meeting.

For at least two years, county officials have talked about getting a shooting range in McDowell. In 2016, the McDowell County Commissioners heard a proposal from an official with the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Under this proposal, the Wildlife Resources Commission would build the shooting range, which would be available to the public.

The shooting range would reportedly have a shelter where folks could practice target shooting with their pistols, rifles or both. It could also be used for archery. The county could provide a range safety officer who would supervise its operation and maintain the facility. This officer and the range’s maintenance could be paid with the money made from a small user fee, according to the proposal by the Wildlife Resources Commission.

In January 2016, the commissioners enthusiastically supported the idea. Since then, county staff has received letters of support from the McDowell Economic Development Association, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, the county Planning Board and the local 4-H program. But the problem has been finding a suitable location.

State wildlife officials previously offered to build a shooting range in Burke County. The commissioners in Burke supported the idea but many residents did not. At the time, the project was met there with overwhelming opposition from the public but has since been reconsidered.

“We’re in a highly competitive situation with Burke County,” said Commission Chairman David Walker last year. “We’ve got land. I’m ready to move forward. If we don’t take action, it’s going to Burke County.”

In an April 2017 meeting, the commissioners voted to offer some of the county-owned land off of Ashworth Road as a possible site for the shooting range. This land was originally purchased by the county years ago to become a second industrial park.

“It’s a great piece of property,” said Commissioner Tony Brown. “We’ve done sound tests there that were good.”

County officials said they have heard a lot of support from the public for a shooting range in McDowell.

“I think the people want one,” said Crawford.

The N.C. Wildlife Resource’s Commission meeting for the proposed shooting range will be held on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. at McDowell Tech.

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