WALLA WALLA -- A club that has provided generations of local shotgunners with a place to compete has announced plans to move.
The Walla Walla Gun Club, located off Middle Waitsburg Road, has leased 71 acres of land west of Lowden for a new multi-purpose shooting range, said Bob Bloch, club secretary-treasurer. Plans call for the new facility to offer not only trap and skeet competitions, but rifle and pistol ranges as well.
The leased land, on Woodward Canyon Road, is owned by the Phil Wasser family, Bloch said.
The club has been at its present address on Walla Walla Regional Airport property since 1949. In 2007, club officials signed a 10-year lease with the Port of Walla Walla to remain on the property. Bloch said today the club has notified the Port of its plans, but that the move will not be sudden. The club also intends to abide by all provisions of its lease in regard to cleanup of the property.
Bloch said the club has requested funds to build the new facility from the state Recreation and Conservation Office in Olympia. It is a matching grant request for $194,000, with half coming from the state and half provided by the club. The club is soliciting proposals from interested range architects with selection to come before mid-summer.
A timeline for construction has not been set, but it is anticipated that plans will be drawn up this summer with construction on the initial phases to begin sometime in autumn. "When a plan is approved by the appropriate state agencies, bids will be called and building permits obtained," Bloch said.
Trap shooters, however, will not have to plan to shift locations anytime soon, Bloch said. The rifle and handgun ranges will be the first of the new facility to be operational while shotgun shooting will continue at the Middle Waitsburg Road grounds for at least the next two years.
When the trap facility is built, it will have 18 trap houses, each able to accommodate a five-member squad. A new clubhouse and staging area will be located behind the trapshooting positions and the parking area will be constructed to include recreational vehicles.
In a release, Bloch said the club looks forward to developing "a real state of the art facility able to host competitions in all the shooting disciplines."
Walla Walla County Sheriff John Turner has also expressed strong interest in helping develop the new range, Bloch said.
"It is clear the Sheriff's Office hopes to be a major user of this new facility and also wants to make it a place where peace officers from all over the (Pacific) Northwest can come to train," he said.
Turner and club officials are working with local residents to form a nonprofit private foundation to raise money and attract grants to support the Sheriff's Office use of the new facility. "Working together in this way, we can spare county taxpayers from any additional taxes or public funding burdens," Bloch said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.
The Walla Walla Gun Club will host an informational meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the WWGC clubhouse, 1212 Middle Waitsburg Road. Officials will be available to discuss plans for the new facility as well as take comments and suggestions.