Cape Elizabeth gun club reopens, says no worries about safety

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club has been allowed to resume the use of live ammunition on its 25-yard range.

Police Chief Neil Williams on Dec. 18 lifted the ban he imposed July 24. Shooting is still not allowed on the Sawyer Road club’s 50- and 100-yard ranges, except with air rifles.

The Town Council on Oct. 14 approved a conditional license for the club that restricted shooting at the 25-yard range until 100 percent shot containment was in place. Although the club has existed for more than 60 years, club officials had to register and obtain a license under an ordinance enacted in early 2014.

On Dec. 18, Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal said the club met the conditions of the license and had achieved 100 percent shot containment on the shorter range.

He made his ruling after receiving a report Dec. 18 from safety evaluator Rick LaRosa, who was hired by the town as part of the new licensing process. Williams shut down live fire after LaRosa recommended the move in a July report.

LaRosa in August said the club’s current design plan was inadequate. He said it was possible bullets could leave the range, which has been the fear of Cross Hill subdivision neighbors who live behind the club.

Residents of the neighborhood have said they’ve found bullets lodged in their houses. Although there was no proof of where the bullets came from, the neighbors’ concerns were one of the reasons the Town Council enacted the licensing process.

LaRosa’s most recent report said the 25-yard range was ready to reopen “with very few exceptions,” which included installation of improved lighting, an exit sign with a backup battery, signs prohibiting prone-position shooting, and ballistic rubber material to capture live fire and ricochets.

In a memo to the town, McDougal said the signs are in place, the rubber material is in place, and no one will be allowed on the range after dark until the lights are installed.

Also in his report, LaRosa said air rifles should be allowed on the 50- and 100-yard ranges.

The gun club achieved shot containment on the 25-yard range by installing a “no-blue-sky shot containment system,” which was designed by LaRosa. In his Dec. 18 report, LaRosa said he donated the design to the club “to assist (the gun club) in creating a safe and professional shooting club.”

The club began working on the design in September and club President Tammy Walter said at the time that the 25-yard range would be done in December. On Tuesday, she said she is pleased with the work that’s been done on the range.

“I am very proud of the intense efforts of our club members and contributors,” she said. “I always knew we would reopen better than ever.”

Walter said members have been “thrilled” with the new design and that “dozen and dozens of people have used the range since we reopened.”

In September, Walter said the club has spent $40,000-$50,000 over the past three years on renovating the 25-yard range. But on Tuesday she said she’s not sure how much the most recent improvements cost.

“I can’t put a dollar figure on it,” she said. “With all the volunteers and donated materials, it’s not possible to calculate.”

Work has already been started on the 50-yard range, Walter said, but it will still be a few years before either the 50-yard or 100-yard ranges are complete. In the meantime, she said, the club has installed sound-dampening material on the 25-yard range to appease the Cross Hill neighbors.

“I was very surprised to hear that some of them didn’t even know we were shooting again,” Walter said. “Now that the range has our state-of-the-art design, our neighbors no longer have any worries about safety.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

George Foley, a member of the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth, uses the club’s reopened 25-yard range.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.