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Carson breaks ground for shared shooting complex

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El Paso County, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson leadership broke ground Dec. 15 to begin building a massive outdoor shooting complex.

Fort Carson has allocated about 400 acres of range space for the construction of the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex. Almost 100 firing points will open this summer, adjacent to Gate 20 near Interstate 25 and Mesa Ridge Parkway, to provide shooting lanes for public safety, according to Army officials.

"(The Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex) is going to set the mark for the rest of the nation and define collaboration and cooperation in the sharing of resources," said Terry Maketa, El Paso County sheriff, who explained that overcrowding in current ranges is disrupting the ability for deputies to polish their skills.

Maketa said the shooting complex will introduce a tremendous resource for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the Colorado Division of Wildlife and National Forest Service.

"I cannot imagine a better venue for a facility like this," said Maketa, while gesturing toward the nearby Rocky Mountain Front Range. "I certainly want to thank (Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson) for being such a great partner in this, and your predecessor as well."

Steave Barness, chief of recreation division, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Carson, welcomed everyone to the groundbreaking ceremony. Two dump trucks, a tactical sheriff's vehicle, a rescue pickup and a mounted color guard encircled a row of shovels.

"Two teams -- Fort Carson and El Paso County -- joined together to put this great program together," said Barness, project lead for the complex.

Barness explained that the concept was conceived during a cup of coffee with Imad Karaki, director, El Paso County Community Services.

They discovered that Army and county officials had shared a common need for an outdoor shooting range with practice lanes dedicated to the promotion of public safety.

Their idea to collaborate sparked detailed discussions. After a series of rewrites and redesigns, requiring input and consent from dozens of multiagency lawyers and senior officials, from the El Paso County Board of Commissioners to the secretary of the Army, the range was approved.

According to Barness, the approved shooting complex is a "conditional donation": El Paso County agrees to build the range on Fort Carson, while the Army will provide operational assistance that allows access for public shooting and county law enforcement training.

Since the announcement of the partnership, Barness has received more than 100 offers from the surrounding community to help with the project. The county created a nonprofit organization, called the Soldier's Friend Foundation, to funnel grants and resources into the building of the range.

After pushing paperwork for two years, Barness and Karaki are ready for construction crews to move dirt.

The facility will first open with 90 firing points. Sheriff's deputies and servicemembers will retain priority of 15 lanes on weekdays. The weekends will afford first-come, first-served public accessibility, costing less than $10 per visit. All revenues will benefit Soldiers and their Families through DFMWR programs, said Barness.

Construction will continue beyond the initial opening. Eventually, the complex will contain trap- and skeet-shooting ranges, a clubhouse, retail areas and food court. The emerging complex will help protect Colorado wildlands by offering a controlled and cooperative area for outdoor shooting, said Barness.

"The Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex will bring a very unique and world-class opportunity here," said Jerri Marr, forest supervisor, Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, during the groundbreaking ceremony.

The forest service is a longtime supporter of recreational shooting, said Marr, adding that more than 95 percent of the Front Range forests and grasslands allow recreational shooting.

"The ability to have shooting ranges is very, very important to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission," said Tim Glenn, chairman, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. Glenn said venues for improving marksmanship skills are critical for continuing the hunting heritage of the nation.

"What a wonderful day to see all this collaboration come together into this moment," said Amy Lathen, chairwoman, El Paso County Board of Commissioners.

"To be able to provide for our sheriff's office in the way the county is required to do -- and to make that facility available to the public at the same time -- it's an extraordinary opportunity," said Lathen. "And then to add to that the benefit that this will have for the Soldiers and their Families at Fort Carson."

"This event and this range epitomizes the partnership and the support that we have for each other," said Anderson. "What a good deal for the community and what a good deal for the post and what a good deal for our Soldiers and their Families.

"This just is indicative of what you all mean to us and we can't thank you enough," said Anderson.

Following brief remarks from the general, Army leaders and county commissioners scooped shovelfuls of earth, signaling the start of construction for the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex.

Article by Dustin Senger (Fort Carson)