WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla Gun Club will be building itself a new home, but don't expect to see dirt flying immediately.
At a meeting Monday, club members and interested residents talked about plans to move the club from its current location on Middle Waitsburg Road to land on Woodward Canyon Road, west of Lowden.
The basic plan is to build rifle and pistol ranges on the 71-acre site first, said Bob Bloch, club secretary-treasurer. Work on those portions should begin in October after design work is done and the needed permits are in hand.
"The big thing right now is to get the plans in line and obtain the permits," Bloch said. No zoning changes should be needed for the new location, which is on property owned by the Phil Wasser family. The area is currently in the Conservation Reserve Program and is not being farmed.
The rifle and pistol facilities are expected to attract new members who are primarily interested in shooting those guns, which require entirely different ranges than the trapshooting range at the club's Walla Walla Regional Airport property. "There's a lot more shooters these days who are shooting rifles and pistols than are shooting shotguns," Bloch noted.
Eventually the club will move its trapshooting range out to the new facility, but that won't happen for at least two years, Bloch said. Plans are for the new range to have the same number of traphouses, 18, as the existing facility.
The club has applied for a grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office to help build the new range. The total request is $194,000, with half coming from the state and half from provided by the club through cash or in-kind donations. The state's half of the grant is funded by revenues received by the state for concealed weapons permits, Bloch said.
Monday's meeting, which was held at the WWGC's clubhouse, drew about 25 people and topics ranged from utilities for the new site to range design to cleanup at the present facility.
The club currently has a lease agreement with the Port of Walla Walla, which owns the airport land, "and they've indicated we're welcome to stay as long as we pay our rent," Bloch said.
The move to the new location will also mean a major savings in lease payments compared to the present location. The club is now paying the Port $1,072 a month and that is scheduled to increase by $112.50 in August. The lease terms for the Wasser property call for $58 per acre per year -- less than $350 a month -- with a provision that the rate will increase by 1 percent per year.
Bloch said anyone who wants to help develop the range or aid in fundraising should contact him or the club.
"People who want to help need to let us know who they are so we can contact them when we have a call for volunteers," he said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.
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