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Eagle's proposed 80-acre 'shooting sports park' contested by community

Signs line Willow Creek Road in Eagle, reading ‘build the gun range away from our homes, our horses and our hills.’

EAGLE, Idaho — Signs line Willow Creek Road in Eagle, reading ‘build the gun range away from our homes, our horses and our hills.’ They refer to a proposed 80-acre target shooting range in the eagle foothills, one that the city of Eagle is pushing heavily.

The city heard from the public over the past three months and said it will update its ‘shooting sports park’ plan based on feedback, but many feel the city will not listen to them, including people who live right next to the proposed site, along with people who use the land every day. 

Tami Bromley has ridden her horse out here for decades, where access to trails, open space and tranquility is unparalleled. 

“We're out in what equestrians call little gulch, it's one of our very favorite places to come ride,” said Bromley. “This is a place that I come to, to center my soul. This is more holy and more spiritual than a church, and I think that's true for most of these people out here.” 

Not just for equestrians, but for runners, hikers, dog walkers, and anyone else who lives in the area. 

“You can just sit out back and enjoy the sunshine, the sights, the people, the equestrians,” said Michael Faraino, a local homeowner.  

However, the serene, quiet, rural nature could soon be disrupted in the foothills north of Eagle, not by a subdivision or a strip mall, but by the sound of gunshots.  

“We've had so many people move to the area that they're pushing equestrians out, and we're running out of places to go,” said Bromley. “This is our last stand.” 

The city of Eagle tasked a ‘work group’ with developing the ‘Eagle Foothills Recreation Plan.’ Passed by the city council last summer, the plan lays out use and management of BLM land north of beacon light road, and some land around it, within city limits. Creating a designated, safe area for shooting surfaced as the top priority in the plan. 

The group pinpointed two potential spots for a shooting range, one on BLM land, and the other on property East of Willow Creek Road. They ultimately landed on the later. 

The roughly 80-acre site sits about 3.5 miles North of Beacon Light on Willow Creek, which is Eagle Road. The owners of the Spring Valley development, going in just West of the area, own this plot of land too, and they plan to donate it to the city for the shooting park. 

In an open house in early March, Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce agreed with Spring Valley's owners, who want to stop undesignated shooting on BLM land next to the development. 

“For us, it's let's get ahead of the game, create a place, make sure we have a spot where it happens and it's not the wild west,” said Mayor Pierce during the open house. 

The park would include archery courses, a pistol and rifle range, a shotgun range, and a separate range for law enforcement. A fence would go up around the park to control access. 

While dozens of people showed up to meetings this spring in opposition of the park, several others supported a controlled, convenient place to shoot. 

"I applaud the city for what they're doing, I think it's a good idea,” said one attendee of the open house. 

"I've had rounds whiz past my ear. I really appreciate the city of Eagle creating a safe space for all of us to shoot. A lot more convenient than other places we have,” said another attendee. 

Homeowners, like Michael Faraino, would have to deal with the public shooting range half a mile down the road. 

“This will not stop shooting on BLM land, that many in the equestrian community are still very concerned about after close calls,” said Faraino. “This is not an appropriate location for any kind of gun facility, and I'm a big-time shooter!” 

The problem is, they are not Eagle residents, they live in unincorporated Ada County. 

“We're being shut out of the entire process, and make no mistake about it, that is deliberate,” said Faraino. “But hey, ‘sorry, you're not in the city of Eagle, you don't have a voice. You don't have a say.’” 

Faraino and his neighbors are not just worried about the noise, they also worry about all the cars this will bring. 

“Willowcreek is a little road, no drainage, the sides are already cracking off, there's no lining. People already speed,” said Faraino. 

Neighbors said Eagle's leaders did not flag them to meetings about the shooting park. 

“Not only the shooting park, but the rest of the rec plan - they're not including the county residents who are going to be impacted the most.  If I live 10 miles from down here, you bet I want a shooting range,” Faraino said. “We love the Second Amendment, and we like our houses.” 

The equestrians we talked to feel the city is not taking their feedback to heart either. They stood alongside neighbors when we met up at Little Gulch, holding signs showing their disdain for the fate of the foothills. Hundreds of them depend on this large lot to park and unload their horse trailers, so they can access hundreds of miles of trails. 

“It takes a lot of space to park a horse trailer and have enough room to unload a horse,” said Bromley.  

If the shooting range goes in renderings show they would not have space to do that. 

“A single gunshot you can hear for several miles the way it echoes up and down the drainage. We just avoid those areas where we hear a gunshot coming from,” said Bromley. “Unless a horse has been conditioned to a gunshot when they hear it, they're gonna bolt and spook. That's really dangerous for anybody riding.” 

Mayor Pierce would not speak with KTVB on this matter, instead he referred to the public records and meetings. The city has said repeatedly the plan is still very preliminary and ongoing, nothing is officially decided. 

"We don't even have studies on traffic impacts, noise impacts, what the facility is gonna look like,” said one city council member. “So, I think to put the community at comfort a little: we're in that conceptual phase of this to see the feasibility of it." 

Eagle City Council decided to move forward with noise and transportation studies for the area, in late April, they voted to spend close to $20 thousand to do the noise study. 

“If they come back and it’s a bunch of junk then we deal with it then, but at least we have facts on info instead of blindly making decisions,” said one council member.

As for who foots the bill for the shooting sports park, Mayor Pierce expects foundations, private donations and user fees to pay for it. He said he wants to have that piece ironed out soon, so they can break ground by fall. 

“We're the audience of a gun range. That's not the issue. The issue is where you're locating this range in proximity to residential areas,” Faraino said. 

If the city moves forward, Faraino and others plan to fight back. 

“If the residents were here first, and you open a range, a nuisance action is allowable by law,” Faraino said. “The foothills is the crown jewel to the Treasure Valley, or one of them, there's so many beautiful areas. I don't know why you want to mess with this.” 

The city sent out a survey on the matter, about 60% of residents who answered supported the idea of a controlled, convenient place to shoot, while the other 40% opposed it. A city spokesperson said the public part of the range will cost around $2.2 million. 

Public records show Mayor Pierce and other staff met with the JK Albertsons Foundation about potentially funding the project. 

The city is looking to partner with law enforcement agencies for the law enforcement range and then they’ll figure out the cost and funding for that part. Along with locking in the money, the city's next steps include environmental and cultural surveys on the site, a final design and contracting with a company to build the ranges. 

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