The Klickitat County Firearms Training Facility has seen an increase in visitors since its opening in June.
Jeff Hunter, assistant public works director for Klickitat County said there were over 30 visitors to the facility during its weekly hours from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9. That is nearly twice the number of visitors to the facility that they normally see, according to Hunter.
The increase of visitors may be attributable to the beginning of hunting season, which in Washington state, begins mid-September.
Tim Sipe, Chief Range Safety Officer for the facility, says visitors have come from places like Vancouver and across state lines to sight in at the firing range. He cited a lack of public ranges in Klickitat County and further abroad as one reason people might be showing up more often.
Sipe said that one of the facility’s highest priorities is providing a safe place for people to sight in. He said the purpose of the facility is to deter the public from practicing in the woods and other areas where practicing might be deemed unsafe.
The range features 10 rifle benches and 5 pistol bays. Hunter says the facility, which offers targets up to 100 yards away from the firing area, is only partially complete. To the left of the 100-yard range lies the partially completed ground work for a much larger, 300-yard range.
“It’s a work in progress,” Hunter said. There are also plans in place for a shotgun range, an archery range and a separate range intended for use by law enforcement officers.
“It would be nice to do a little more,” said Hunter.
“Most of the dirt work is done,” Hunter said about the 300-yard range, but he also acknowledged that it will take more money and labor to finish the “dirt work,” the colloquial term for the baffling, which are the mounds that the targets lie on, and the berms, which barricade projectiles from escaping the facility.
The firing range is an “open-air” range, meaning the range itself is outdoors, protected by the berms on the perimeter, but the facility that houses the rifle benches and pistols bays are covered, allowing visitors the comfort of being protected from weather elements that might impede their practice.
Responding to why the facility is not under construction, Hunter said that “it’s a matter of timing,” citing higher priorities for the county’s public works department. He said they are not currently pursuing funding to continue adding on new components to the facility, which sits on a 90-acre lot off U.S. Route 197, close to the junction with State Route 14 outside Dallesport, Wash.
Sipe said one of the major issues is a lack of awareness of the facility. There is no sign directing traffic to the facility, which he says another priority of the range is placing a sign and raising awareness. He said people thought that only the sheriff would have access, which is a misconception, according to Sipe. He says that the range is fully public, which means visitors can practice without having to sign up for a membership.
Safety is another priority, according to Sipe. The range officials prohibit 50-caliber ammunition and only slugs can be used with shotguns. Fully automatic firearms can only be used by Law Enforcement officers, whom Hunter says use the range on off days. Safety glasses and ear plugs are necessary to be allowed into the range, among many other rules laid out on the county’s website.
Sipe says the volunteers who officiate the facility offer tips on sighting-in, but more formal classes and training are in the plans to be offered at the facility, including training on becoming a range safety officer.
For now, officials are waiting to see how attendance will be measured throughout the hunting season and beyond before entering the next phase of construction on the facility.
The facility is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 30 minutes to sunset if that will come first and on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., or 30 minutes to sunset if it comes first, and costs $15 for two hours of range time.