The next step will be to release the specifications of the plan to engineers and architects, then release the project for bid. Construction will begin after that. Once construction of an actuality facility begins, it will be easy to get grants from organizations like the National Rifle Association, which turned down a previous request because the range only existed on paper, officials said.
The option the board chose Tuesday will occupy about 700 acres in the western part of the park. This option also includes 200 campsites.
This particular location is flat, but is surrounded by high ridges that will provide additional sound dampening to other areas of the park. It is also convenient to existing utilities. All ranges will face north, meaning the position of the sun will be less of a factor, and will also (eventually) keep the zip line away from the line of fire.
According to Dennis Cotton, project manager for the shooting complex, similar facilities in the area bring in well over $3 million per year, with much higher figures possible when competitive matches are being held.
“And this one will be open to the public also,” Cotton said. “There is not a range quite like this one anywhere east of the Mississippi River.”
Phase one will include pistol and rifle ranges as well as a combined skeet/trap shooting range. When the complex is complete, it will also include shotgun ranges, sporting clays, archery and all manner of other shooting sports.
The board will be aided by the Alabama Department of Conservation Resources, which will do all of the earthwork for phase one, a contribution that Cotton estimated will be worth $750,000. DCNR will also help pay the 10 percent match on a federal Pittman grant that will pay for much of the rest of the project.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board:
• Discussed whether or not to hire a contractor to finish the environmental center started last month by the Carpenters for Christ. The project is likely to go over budget, but will still be reimbursable with grant funds. Action was tabled to let professional services group representative Danny Hubbard and board member Joey Cooper to assess progress to date.
• Heard Hubbard announce that a grant deadline had been extended from October to February.
• Heard Hubbard announce that the board was the only applicant for a $725,000 Off-Highway vehicle grant, and would likely be awarded it.
• Agreed to a suggestion made by board member Ray Miller to hold off on the purchase of any more surplus equipment without prior board approval.
• Tabled a job description for assistant park director.
• Tabled discussion of admissions prices and procedures until the next meeting. There was some disagreement as to whether admission to the park should continue while construction and timber cutting are still in full swing or if the park should continue to try and build a word of mouth following. Discussion of an advertising strategy will also be taken up at the next meeting.
• Discussed whether or not a 24/7 security presence was necessary when there was essentially no one in the park.
• Agreed to make a $1,000 donation to the Talladega Rescue Squad, which stored some heavy equipment for the park at no charge for 10 months.
• Agreed to concentrate on maintaining existing trails after a new trail from the parking lot to the welcome center is complete.
• Announced that its next meeting will be July 31 at the welcome center at 7:30 a.m.
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.