Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Obits Distribution Locations Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Crime Puzzles Today's Photos

State to inspect six sites in search for NWA shooting range, but decision will take months

by Doug Thompson | November 30, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A contestant fires his muzzle-loading rifle on Sept. 24 2021 at the 66th annual Saunders Memorial Shoot in Berryville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

The state Game and Fish Commission will inspect at least six sites among the more than 30 submitted for a shooting range in Northwest Arkansas, a staff member overseeing the project said Monday.

Commission staff will decide this week whether to accept any more, said Grant Tomlin, assistant chief of the commission's education division.

The commission won't release the six contending sites or who made the proposals, Tomlin said.

The commission wants to build a first-rate public shooting sports complex in Northwest Arkansas -- a much better one than it can afford, commission Director Austin Booth said when announcing the site search in July.

The commission drew up a detailed request for what it wants, putting those requirements in a competitive "request for proposals" in October. The request invited any local or regional group -- public, private or any combination -- to offer a package of land and money to cover at least part of the cost of building and operating such a range.

The type of facility the commission wants will cost an estimated $15 million to $20 million and possibly more, Booth said at the time. If built, the Northwest Arkansas complex would be the commission's "flagship shooting facility," open to the public and owned by the commission, Booth said.

"Once we find the right piece that passed all the requirements, we have to assess it for environmental, noise and archaeological requirements," Tomlin said. For instance, the range must not impede on any environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands, be located where the noise will be a nuisance to neighbors, or disturb anything historically or culturally significant.

"This is not going to be a 30-day bid acceptance," Tomlin said. "Even a site that passes all our initial requirements will take four to six months to get the environmental, noise and archaeological studies done. When we get that all done, we have to submit it all to U.S. Fish and Wildlife for their approval."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The minimum requirements set by the commission are demanding, the commission acknowledged in its requests. Those requirements include:

• At least 150 acres on a plot wider than it is deep. Depth of the parcel should be at least 400-450 yards.

• The land should be as flat as possible with no sitting water or wetland areas that cannot be built around or mitigated with drainage systems.

• The plot needs to allow all shooting to take place in a northern to northeasterly direction. This includes ranges for pistols, rifles, skeet and trap shooting.

• Easy access to major roads is preferred.

• Public utilities such as water, electricity and sewer should either be available or easily extended to the site.

• There should be very few residences nearby to avoid high traffic during major shooting competitions and to avoid disturbing neighbors with the noise.

Such a site would be very desirable for development, said Don McNaughton, a Realtor based in Fayetteville, speaking about the proposal in July.

"I'm not going to say it can't be found, but it's going to be pricey," McNaughton said.

More News


On the web

NWA shooting range proposal on state Game and Fish Commission website:


Print Headline: State will inspect six sites in NWA shooting range search


Sponsor Content