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Firing range construction in the works

January 08, 2001

Firing range construction in the works



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Construction of a $24.9 million federal firearms training center near Harpers Ferry could begin in a little more than a year, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd said Monday.

The way was cleared for the firing range when officials with Byrd's office announced last week that the management of 327 acres of land where the range will be built had been transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the National Park Service.

About 60 acres of the property will be set aside for U.S. Customs to build the firing range, according to Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin.

When the firing range was first proposed, there was concern how the facility would affect tourism at nearby Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

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Parts of the parcel also have historical significance, such as part of School House Ridge, where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson surveyed his 14,000 troops before his famous siege and capture of Harpers Ferry in 1862.

Because part of the mission of the U.S. Park Service is preserving historic properties, having the park service manage the land would provide a greater degree of protection for historically significant areas, Byrd has said.

The U.S. Customs Service needs a new firearms training facility to train personnel to deal with terrorist threats and fight the drug war, federal officials said.

Last year, Byrd said the training center would use an outdoor firing range, although he said U.S. Treasury officials have stated they are willing to fully enclose the range.

Byrd said it is important to note that an outdoor range is semi-closed, with four walls and a louvered roof.

Gavin said he could not provide any information Monday on how the range will be designed.

"Nobody has come up with any drawings on what it will look like," said Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, which initially expressed concerns about the range.

Last year, Byrd said he wants the U.S. Treasury to work with community members to address noise and safety concerns.

The senator also said he wants the U.S. Park Service to work with the U.S. Treasury and members of the local community to ensure that the facility would not infringe upon the historically significant portion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife property.

Rosa said he has not been contacted by any federal officials.

Local economic development officials said the training center could have positive spin-off effects for the local economy when federal officials begin coming to the county to train.

Local law enforcement agencies are also hopeful that they will be able to train at the facility, Jefferson County Commission President James G. Knode said Monday.

"I see nothing to take exception to," Knode said.

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