The Hank Harmon Rifle Range is looking a bit like a dump.
A mailbox, metal desk and old sink shot full of enough holes to be a sieve are evidence that shooters have been ignoring the rules at the public range. So are the circles of blue paint.
"About three months ago somebody brought out six or seven cans of paint and shot them up," Said Ray Coxe, president of the nonprofit board that oversees the public range. "When they shoot they're spectacular. I'm not kidding. There's a six- or seven-foot halo of blue that goes up, but then there's a six- or seven-foot ring of paint that stays on the ground."
Paint cans, glass containers, appliances, fruits and vegetables, and other breakable targets aren't allowed on the range. Shooters are supposed to use only approved targets, and then put the target in the trash or take it to the dump when they are done, Coxe said.
"It's O.K. to bring your old chair out to shoot it up," Coxe said. "Just bring it home with you after."
The problem with illegal targets trashing the range has become worse this spring. Gastineau Human Services used to send out community service crews to clean up the range, but no longer has the manpower, Coxe said.
The longer range gets picked up three times a month, during organized hunter rifle, high-power 200-300 yard and small-bore silhouette events. But the short range isn't getting cleaned, so the Hank Harmon Rifle Range board is designating the first Saturday morning each month as clean-up day, Coxe said. They're asking range users to be at the range between 9 to 11 a.m. to help pick up trash and old targets.
Shooters who bring breakable targets and leave a mess can be prosecuted for littering on public property, Coxe said. Controlling what people bring to the range is difficult, since it is unsupervised and open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and all daylight hours in the winter. A caretaker living at the range prevents drunken parties, but isn't able to check all targets, Coxe said.
"I have a lot of shooters that like to shoot reactive targets that fall apart," Coxe said.
All kinds of gun owners use the range, from hunters siting their rifles in preparation for a hunting trip to competitive sharp shooters to plinkers, a term for people who shoot for fun. On average, 45 people use the range daily, Coxe said.
The range board wants to encourage new users and is planning to have loaner rifles at some shooting events, Coxe said.
Juneau is lucky to have a free and accessible shooting range, Coxe said. He's visited communities in the Lower 48 where people drive 50 miles to shoot and then have to pay a fee.
The outdoor rifle range was first built by Juneau residents 1936, near where Skater's Cabin now stands. The range was later relocated to move it away from the popular West Mendenhall Glacier Trail. The existing range, named after a Juneau teacher and shooting coach, was started in 1970.
Since then concrete floors, new roofs on the covered firing areas and minor grading and drainage work has enhanced the short and long ranges. Next a safety berm will be built around the pistol range and the end of the long range with dirt removed from Riverbend School.
The short range is meant for pistols, small-bore plinking and shotguns, with a target support berm at 100 yards. The long range is for all caliber guns, with target support berms at 75, 100, 200 and 300 yards.
"We've got the most beautiful range, with the trees and the eagles flying overhead," Coxe said.
From the shooting area he has watched mountain goats and marmots on Mt. McGinnis through his spotting scope.
"Occasionally we've had a deer or a bear wander across the range and we've had to stop shooting," Coxe said.
It's illegal to hunt on the range, which is city property and abuts the road. The archery range, trap shooting range and Juneau Gun Club are all on the same road. Fish and Game is also planning to build an indoor range nearby, Coxe said.
Though the Hank Harmon range has no fees, donations are encouraged. For $5 anyone can become a member, which allows them to vote for the board. The current board is Coxe, Kevin Jardell, Arn Albrecht, Brad Flynn, Mal Menzies and Jim Newman. Membership fees can be sent to HHRR, P.O. Box 33012, Juneau, AK 99803 or dropped off at Rayco Sales on Old Dairy Road.
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