A shooting range does not belong in Thacher Park

To the Editor:

How many people do you know that are aware of a shooting range in John Boyd Thacher State Park? Located on Beaver Dam Road, just west of Pinnacle Road, it has never been clearly marked with a sign that the public might know of its existence.

The land it occupies is part of Thacher Park under the custodianship of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. It is not a public shooting range; it is reserved for law enforcement only. What is the mission statement for Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation? I’m sure it does not include hosting a shooting range for multiple law enforcement agencies.

Please understand that I am pro-gun ownership and want to repeal the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE Act). I believe law enforcement should have an adequate shooting range for qualifying for ratings and testing.

I would like more shooting ranges for the public use. But not at Thacher Park. It’s not sensible!

How can you invite the public for a day’s peace and quiet or family picnic with hiking and biking and expect that they should tolerate volleys of semi-automatic gunfire sounding off across the park forests and interrupting the natural sounds.

Law enforcement needs a shooting range near a training center, like the state land at Partridge Run, which encompasses thousands of acres and is not a park. Maybe law enforcement could team up with some of the local gun clubs and improve their ranges.

I’ve wondered how the shooting range came to be in Thacher Park.

I have researched the park’s history and notice a lack of documentation on the shooting range.

It seems the public was excluded from any review or comment on the construction of a shooting range. Where do the monies come from to support it and are they diverted from other public use projects in the park? What about the safety issues inherent of a shooting range? Is the public sufficiently warned away from the forests beyond the target area?

What about remediation of the build-up of lead in the target area due to the volume over many years at one site? Hunting by permit on parklands is not a problem because only a few shots are fired occasionally at prey over a large land area.

From the valley below Thacher Park, we can hear the repeating gunfire during the training and testing periods at the Thacher Park Range. It is so heavy with gunshots; it seems like the Fourth of July.

To the New York State Office of Parks I am asking how you can justify the continued existence of a shooting range in the people’s park given the intent of the Thacher family when they gave their land to the people of the state. It states in the deed conveying the property to New York State that it is given “upon the sole condition that the same and each and every parcel thereof shall be forever dedicated to, and used exclusively for the purpose of a park and natural scenic reservation, to be known always as John Boyd Thacher Park and for no other purpose whatever.”

Based on the words in this agreement, I conclude that the shooting range is not an appropriate use of parkland or funds. If you agree with me on this subject, the Office of Parks needs to hear from you.

They may not act to remove the shooting range under the simple pressure of it being sensible; they may respond to public pressure, so take a stand and speak up.

While I have been critical on the shooting range, the Office of Parks and its staff, including the park police, have been and continue to make Thacher Park a friendly and enjoyable place to visit. Please support the park staff and The Friends of Thacher Park through your volunteerism and attendance of this year’s special Centennial events.

The park is a gift to the people for one hundred years. Please celebrate!

 

Timothy J. Albright

Meadowdale

 

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