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One man's trash is another man's shooting range

February 27, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Washington County officials opened a new landfill not so long ago, and now they have to figure out what to do with the old one. Frankly, I have trouble finding fault with their initial idea, which is to use the old dump as a shooting range.

Well? Makes sense, doesn't it? Lots of tin cans.

And what could possibly be more popular in Washington County than a place for folks to fire off their weapons? If you could somehow figure out a way to work cars-going-fast - and perhaps bacon - into the mix, that would be just about everything a self-respecting Washington Countian could desire.

As a model, the commissioners pointed to Carroll County - and heaven knows, we want to do all we can to become more like Carroll County - where they've cooked up sort of a multi-use site with shooting ranges and softball fields. Nothing like taking the kids out for a little baseball and a little gunfire on a Saturday morning.

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Let's just hope there would be no Little League games held there. Little League parents are scary enough when they're unarmed - can you imagine if each of them is packing an M1 Grand? You'd have to go to Albania to find umpires willing to take the risk.

But there are other things you can shoot at a dump besides umpires. I know this, because in upstate New York, some city folks find it great sport to hang out at the dumps and shoot bears that wander up to paw through the garbage.

I realize that no real hunter would want to do this, but perhaps we could advertise in D.C. and Baltimore. The new administration in Annapolis seems to favor a black bear season, so every weekend we could backhoe up a little garbage then rake in the bears and the tourism dollars.

Another benefit of a shooting range, the county says, is that police could use it to keep their aim sharp.

Of course, as the Cascade Committee immediately pointed out, the county already has, or had, access to a firing range at the former Fort Ritchie Army base. But the committee, in a letter to Commissioners President Greg Snook, says Washington County law enforcement can no longer use the Ritchie range, because the Pen Mar Development Corp., which is supposed to be drumming up new uses for the old base, wanted to charge the county $3,000 a month for maintenance fees.

What is there about a shooting range that costs $100 a day to maintain? Maybe it costs a lot to keep piling up the dirt.

But you have to love the idea that an agency, Pen Mar, which has $3 million in the bank according to their financial statements, wants to charge the government that basically created it $3,000 a month for paper targets, or something. Maybe that's just shrewd business. Or maybe it's an example of why, years after it closed, business at Fort Ritchie is still deader than Brian Bosworth's acting career.

Incidentally, I was skimming through the landfill news item in The Herald-Mail when I came across words that make my spine tingle just a little bit: "Commissioner John Munson said..."

I always utter a brief prayer of thanksgiving every time J-Mun commences to speak in public, because I can usually count on panning some nuggets out of the debris.

In this case though, all Munson had to say was that he supported the firing range and that, "I personally would like to have a place to go target practice myself."

Good Lord, John Munson has a gun?

I bet that caught the attention of the other four commissioners. "Uh, John? Mind passing through the metal detector one more time? No no - we don't mean anything by that. It's just that, you know, want to make sure no one has been tampering with your shoes or anything. Ha ha, Modern times and all. Can't be too careful..."

At least if no candidates file for commissioner in 2006, we'll know the reason why.

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