San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 25th, 2009
Dahlstrom site proposed for shooting range

Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford, left, speaks with Hays County Shooting Sports Task Force (HCSSTF) Chair Stephen Marlow, center, and HCSSTF Vice Chair J.B. Kolodzey, right.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A local non-profit group went before the Hays County Commissioners Court Tuesday to propose a shooting sports complex on 350 acres of future conservation easement land in Buda.

The county, in partnership with the Hill Country Conservancy and the City of Austin, agreed last month to collectively pay the Dahlstrom Family $9.9 million for a conservation easement on the family’s 2,275-ranch, which is located over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone near the junction of FM 1626 and RM 967.

The Dahlstroms have agreed to reserve 350 acres of the ranch for public use. The precise nature of the public use, and the terms of the easement itself, are under negotiation.

“I’m probably the one who first brought up Dahlstrom (Ranch) as a potential site (for the shooting sports complex),” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) to members of the Hays County Shooting Sports Task Force during Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.

“I’ve had some of those conversations with (the Dahlstroms),” Barton continued. “I keep trying to encourage the Dahlstroms to talk to you guys, and really, y’all should talk to the Dahlstroms. I think it’s going to be something that’s got to work for both (parties). I think it’s possible. I think it’s turning out to be kind of difficult because of their vision for what they want to do. They’re concerned about how much acreage they’ve got and (about) water quality issues, (all of which) I think can be overcome.”

The Dahlstrom family could not be immediately reached for comment. Barton said the family is worried that noise from multiple shooting ranges on the future public access portion of the ranch may drive off other users, such as hikers and bird watchers.

Hays County Shooting Sports Task Force Vice Chair J.B. Kolodzey said his group, the Texas Shooting Sports Complex nonprofit organization (TXSSC), could accommodate hikers and cyclists. Kolodzey added that wildlife at Dahlstrom Ranch is already acclimatized to the sound of gunshots. Kolodzey said he already participates in competitive shooting at Dahlstrom Ranch on Thursdays.

“We’ve been shooting out there,” Kolodzey said at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting. “Not just me — there’s a whole lot of other people in this community that do. And (Jack Dahlstrom) also has some corporate shoots out there … If it wasn’t for him, the Boy Scouts, the 4H (members) — that’s where they go to shoot. He’s a very kind man to let them … and he really wants to cater to kids. He loves it when the kids come out there and shoot.”

Hays County Shooting Sports Task Force Chair Stephen Marlow said the complex must comprise at least 350 acres in order to safely accommodate the multitude of shooting sports that are proposed to take place there.

“We want it to be a park,” Kolodzey said. “Because we don’t want just shooting. We want the Boy Scouts to come out and be able to camp. Plus, they can qualify (for) their merit badges while they’re there.”

One of the thornier issues currently being negotiated by the Dahlstrom Ranch Public Access Plan Steering Committee is whether camping will be allowed on the 350-acre future public access portion of the ranch.

“We would like to partner up with y’all on that 350 acres, in being able to open it up to the public, not just as a shooting range, but we envision soccer, baseball, football fields out there as well,” Kolodzey said to commissioners. “We would be able to help pay for it. Y’all are not going to have to come up with the money. We need a new courthouse, people. Where are you going to find the money for that? We’re trying to bring you something that is going to be revenue-neutral for the county, as well as produce revenue for the county.”

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0 thoughts on “Dahlstrom site proposed for shooting range

  1. SEAN BATURA – News Reporter
    Say Sean,
    Our citizens group went before the Court this time to present our business plan. The subject of the ranch property was a side discussion, and there has always been a question as to whether or not it was available. We have proposed several properties at previous meetings and continue to look.
    Thanks,
    Stephen

  2. A terrible idea. Its amazing, Hays County was lucky enough to have the Hill Country Conservancy and City of Austin help us get some significant conservation easement, and already the county commissioners (Barton, anyway) appear to be helping a special interest group to take control of the publicly available portion of the ranch, if I’ve understood this article correctly.
    The chair of the HCSSTF says that a shooting complex must encompass 350 acres, exactly the size that the Dahlstroms have committed to public use. Give me a break. Open an indoor range and save us all the headaches and littered shell casings. The county’s residents are not clamoring for a massive (350 acres!?!) shooting range.
    Our planet, our country, and our county are facing unprecedented assaults on our health, economy, environment, and liberty, and these boys have chosen shootin’ guns as the cause most worthy of their efforts. Its time to grow up and find something worth fighting for, like protecting our quality of life here in Central Texas.
    I realize that there is a lack of shooting (and hunting) available in Hays County, but we shouldn’t waste such prime Hill Country parkland on a shooting range. Let the HCSSTF and TXSSC raise their own money and buy some old cotton fields on the east side of the county for their shootin club. Lets save the Dahlstrom acreage for something we can all enjoy (without hearing protection).

  3. As a cyclist & hiker, the last place I want to participate in those two activities is surrounded by the sound of periodic gunshots. A shooting range, regardless of non-profit status, seems wholly inconsistent with the purpose of public access in a conservation easement. Conservation easements around here typically allow only passive recreation, with trails for hiking & biking, and that’s it. In other parts of the country conservation easements are used to preserve prime farmland or ranchland (which Dahlstrom is to some extent). I don’t see the flexibility in the Dahlstrom easement for something more intense like a shooting range, particularly since it will result in slugs and brass littering the property. And don’t give me the Boy Scout line… El Rancho Cima Boy Scout Camp, one of the largest in the state, is only 15 minutes west of San Marcos on 32 and has more than adequate shooting facilties. 350 acres would be overkill for a shooting range.

  4. Actually, there was (is?) some great mountain biking behind the Hill Country Rifle Range. I haven’t been back in a decade and I hear strange tales about the place these days, but the rifle range didn’t cause any concerns for the bikers.

  5. Maybe I’m wrong about the piece of property, but my understanding was that HCC and City of Austin (and possibly Travis County?) is working on a conservation easement through there so that there could be a green space that went from Travis to Hays county which allowed for hiking and riding at trail lengths that are otherwise unheard of in Texas (I think there was a Statesman article a few months ago, it was called the Hike for a Day trail or something like that). Something akin to the Womble Trail in Arkansas, with access for a wider range of users. People travel from all over the country to ride the Womble. Losing one of the prime pass-through pieces of property would be a shame. I understand that there is a lack of opportunity for shooters in Hays county, but I also have to believe that there is property that would be more appropriate by being neither prime Hill Country land or prime farm land, or where shooting wouldn’t seriously impact the use of property by other groups.

  6. I would like to point out that Travis County, at least, has a Veloway, bike paths, and all sorts of amenities for hiking and biking, with darned few facilities for shooting. Hiking and cycling are not morally superior activities compared to others. When shooters enthusiasts receive equal representation and accomodation compared to cyclists and hikers, I will be far more willing to take the above complaints into consideration.

  7. Bikers and hikers can bike and hike almost anywhere with very few restrictions. If we wish to shoot safely, there are very few places to do so. Indoor ranges are not acceptable for competitive shooting, as indoor tracks aren’t acceptable to bikers. There are also plans to make the 350 acres multi-use to include camping and so forth. As for environmental concerns, shooters probably leave less of a footprint than almost any other use. The berms which absorb lead pellets are regularly mined so the lead can be reused, and are isolated with a barrier from the underlying soil. Noise may be a problem for some, but if I can put up with having to slow down for bikers (and I do), they can put up with the noise.

  8. For the record, I’m a shooter as well (Gloc 17 & Remington 700 SPS)–just so I don’t get the “morally superior” label thrown at me. I simply think this is the absolute wrong piece of property for such a use. A quality outdoor shooting facility is needed (notice I never attacked whether there was a need), but they should find a more suitable property. And I still don’t buy the 350 acre requirement for a complex.

  9. Before you get your underwear all bunched up, I own guns, and used to hunt a lot. When I am invited, I still will take the occasional feral hog. I have less worry about safety from a properly designed shooting range, than I do being out anywhere in the Rockies during the first week of hunting season. That is scary.

    The article states that they need “at least 350 acres”, out of what I understand is a total of 370 in the HCC/CoA conservation easement, to safely house all the shooting sports. If that is in fact the case, it precludes multiple uses of the land without strict scheduling.

    Actually, there are a lot of restrictions on where people can hike and mountain bike. As you know, Texas is mostly private land, and mountain bikes need a trail. In Hays county that limits mountain bikes to two approved parkland areas or driving out of county. There are a couple of additional areas for hikers, but be realistic, it’s not like people can hike or ride everywhere. The “wilderness” experience is pretty limited for everyone in this part of the country. A lot of people would like to avoid roads, because a substantial number of drivers are not like John P. (Thank you, John) and don’t slow down, or worse, actively threaten riders. (I believe Texas passed the 3 foot rule, but I could be wrong and it may have died on Perry’s desk this session.)

  10. Perry vetoed that bill. Even his bike turned against him for doing it. And thank you, John P., for slowing down for us. I do my best to stay out of the way of traffic, though it is not always possible.

  11. As a shooting sports enthusiast and advocate, as well as a sustainable natural surface trail builder, user and advocate, the Central Texas area is in need of an extraordinary educational facility for the various shooting sports. TXSSC will not only provide an outstanding facility for archery and the shooting sports, it will also provide the educational link that is required to safely participate in these sports for young and old alike.

    As Mr. Marlow has stated, there are several properties that are being assessed.

    Whether it is 350 acres on Dahlstrom Ranch or somewhere else. This facility would be a tremendous asset for the community.

    Regarding the concern of lead leaching into the aquifer, below is the results of a Virginia Tech geological scientific study.

    There were 20 million metric tons of lead bullets fired in the United States in the 20th century. Is that lead having an environmental impact? Not at or near the U.S. Forest Service firing range near Blacksburg, Va., according to research by Virginia Tech geological scientists. There are 9,000 nonmilitary shooting ranges and a lot of military ones in the United States. Some 60,000 metric tons of lead are expended by shooting. ”Lead metal is unstable when it is in contact with air and water. It corrodes and forms hydrocerrussite, the white coating seen on old bullets in museums. That slows corrosion.” Some lead escapes, ”but we learned that it is absorbed in the top few inches of soil and does not migrate beyond that…. Lead is not very mobile. It does not wash away in surface or ground water.”

    From Virginia tech:

    Do lead bullets continue to be a hazard after they land?

    There were 20 million metric tons of lead bullets fired in the United States in the 20th century. Is that lead having an environmental impact?

    Not at or near the U.S. Forest Service firing range near Blacksburg, Va., according to research by Virginia Tech geological scientists. Donald Rimstidt, a professor in the Department of Geosciences, College of Science at Virginia Tech will report the conclusions of a five-year study at the 116th national meeting of the Geological Sciences of America in Denver Nov. 7-10.

    There are 9,000 nonmilitary shooting ranges and a lot of military ones in the United States. Some 60,000 metric tons of lead are expended by shooting. (a metric ton or ”long ton” is 2,200 lbs.). ”So there is lead shot and bullets everywhere,” Rimstidt said.

    ”We were invited by the U.S. Forest Service to look at the shooting range in the National Forest near Blacksburg.”

    The researchers’ survey found 11 metric tons of shot in the shotgun range and 12 metric tons of lead bullets in the rifle range. ”These ranges are 10 years old. Most of the lead shot has accumulated on about four or five acres. Some shots have been into the woods, which cover hundreds of acres,” Rimstidt said.

    Professor James Craig, now retired, and Rimstidt looked first at lead corrosion and whether lead is leaching into the water table or streams. ”Lead metal is unstable when it is in contact with air and water. It corrodes and forms hydrocerrussite, the white coating seen on old bullets in museums. That slows corrosion,” Rimstidt said.

    However some lead escapes, he said. ”But we learned that it is absorbed in the top few inches of soil and does not migrate beyond that,” Rimstidt said. ”Lead is not very mobile. It does not wash away in surface or ground water.”

    Another finding is that there are large amounts of lead in the trees near the shooting range — but not in a large percentage of the trees, Rimstidt said. ”If and when those trees are harvested, they would be contaminated with lead ”

    Fisheries and Wildlife Professor Pat Scanlon was an investigator on the project until his death in 2003. ”He found no evidence that birds eating shot, but this portion of the research was not completed,” Rimstidt said. ”We are not saying that wildlife would not ingest lead, but it does not appear to be a problem on this range. Other shooting ranges may be different.”

    Rimstidt will give their recommendations to the Forest Service representatives so they can develop best management practices. ”They already knew to put lime on the range to limit corrosion, to take measures to prevent soil erosion, and now, to keep track of the trees if they are cut. They are the experts in management. I will give them the facts and they will make the decisions,” Rimstidt said.

    Rimstidt’s conclusion is that shooting on controlled ranges reduces the overall risk to the public from lead in the environment.

  12. I don’t think I mentioned any concern about lead poisoning. I was simply referring to the mess that was likely to be left behind, no matter how hard they work at keeping the facility cleaned up. I’m not so stupid as to believe the small amount of lead from slugs would have a significant impact on lead levels. Again, as a fellow shooter I’m on your side in trying to find a suitable location. This one just isn’t it.

  13. I can’t address whether or not one location or another is suitable for a shooting facility. I do believe that one somewhere would be a really good thing. It should be well supervised, inclusive of many different shooting sports, and available to the general public. Actually, judging from the unavailabilty of guns and ammor recently, there are a very great many people out there who need someplace to learn how to shoot their new guns. I would rest easier knowing that these new gun owners actually had gotten in some practice time. A monitored shooting facility would help in this regard a great deal, making us a bit safer at the same tiem.

    And of course I am careful aroung bikers. I used to be one back in the day. Not as a hobby, but as a way to get to my friends houses.

  14. This is a tremendous idea and is very much needed to provide a safe environment for the shooting sports.

  15. If the county, et. al just agreed to pay the Dahlstroms 9.9 million dollars for the use of that 350 acres does that mean that these guys who are proposing a shooting range there, and claim they will need the entire 350 acres of public access land, are suggesting we just bought a 9.9 million dollar shooting range?

    Is it just me, or does that seem a bit steep?

    I don’t think turning this area into one big shooting range was ever discussed when all those negotiations were going on…well, not in PUBLIC, anyway.

  16. Well, if not at Dahlstrom, then the county needs to invest in perhaps the Search place. It would be perfect.
    More people participcate in shooting sports (or want a local spot to do so) than hike and bike. Simple as that. This is just the first time that shooting sports enthusiasts have raised their voices to begin to implement something.

    So this is inevitable, it just needs the correct property purchase so the park can be instituted. Personally, I think if the county pays county dollars for a piece of land, then it should not be the former owners dictating what occurs in the park, if they are getting retail price for the property. If they are donating it, then that is different. But if they are getting tax dollars to buy the property, then it needs to be the county residents (i.e., we the people) who determine what type of activities are instituted on that particular park.

  17. I don’t believe the Dahlstrom deal is an out and out purchase, it is a right to use thing.

    They have retained most of the property for themselves, they are simply saying they will not develop that 350 acres into housing, commercial, etc. and will allow the public to have access in a limited fashion.

    But I sure thought this deal was all about nature and open space, not bullets and a whole lotta noise.

  18. Looks to me like the Dahlstrom Family is having some major regrets about having done this deal with Jeff Barton.

    Hey, Jeff, in the service of Truth, Justice and the American Way, when did you get this idea to turn that conservation easement into a 350-acre shooting range?

    Do you think anyone would have signed onto this idea if they had known there was a shooting range in the works for the entire acreage?

    Oh, the bucolic sounds of nature….bang!

  19. Just occurred to me that if the county had wanted to buy a piece of land, let’s say 350 acres for a shooting range, they could have bought that property outright for only 7 million dollars, assuming it was 20K/acre, which is what property in my neck o’ the woods is going for these days.

    I’m just sayin’….please, maybe someone can explain to me the advantage of this conservation easement deal?

    I see limited public access, no ownership rights and a pretty expensive price tag.

    The advantages?

    p.s. Please forgive me if this was a brilliant idea and I am just failing to see the glow.

  20. Hays county chipped in $4.9 million to help purchase permanent development rights on this property (out of the 2007 $30 million park bond money). Hill country conservancy put up $4 million, and City of Austin put up $1 million. (Most of this information is from an Austin Chronicle story from 10-08). As far as I can make out from the article, I think the easement is for development rights on the entire ranch (2252 acres), with 370 acres specifically set aside as accessible parkland. The easement gives Hayes, HCC, and CoA first right to buy the land if the Dahlstroms ever decide to sell.

    The shooting range is a use that was proposed after the majority of the deal was worked out. Again, I’m for the development of a shooting range, just not on this land. This deal as been in the works for years, and it would be a shame for it to get changed or potentially derailed because of late changes.

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