PIEDMONT, SD – Cattle and bullets don’t mix. Neither do homes and outdoor spaces populated with families and kids. All of which will be impacted if what is being called the largest shooting complex in the United States is built north of Rapid City, near the intersection of Elk Vale Road and Elk Creek Road in Meade County.
Joe Norman, a fifth generation rancher, is one of four landowners whose land sits adjacent to the planned 400 acre shooting range that is a project of the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks (GFP). He and others are voicing their opposition to the shooting range that is expected to break ground in early 2022 at a cost of over $10 million.
“You’ve got cattle on four sides of this project. You’ve got wildlife on four sides of this project. And there are housing developments,” observes Norman. “It’s going to change the landscape all the way from Rapid City to Alkali Road and it’s going to change the landscape from Piedmont to Elk Vale on Elk Creek Road.”
He added, “Just the increase in traffic and law enforcement needs alone should concern anyone.”
Neighbors and others who are interested can find out more about the project during a question-and-answer meeting set for Mon., Jan. 3 at 1:30p.m., at the Norman Ranch. Representatives from the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks will be there to present the plan and answer questions. Norman says there are a multitude of concerns.
“Number one is an increase in crime. We already have a crime issue on Elk Vale and Elk Creek Roads. We’ve had several thefts and robberies in the last five years. GF&P are talking 100,000 people a year coming to this complex. That will result in an increase in crime,” said Norman.
He continued, “There will be substantial noise pollution. And with the amount of bullets being expelled, there will be a lead issue on the ground. With the topography of the location and heavy rains, there is potential for this lead residue to wash into stock dams and the Elk Creek Watershed that serves ranchers and housing developments.”
The potential for increased wildfires also looms large, says Norman. “You put that many people at the shooting complex and if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, and there is a hot, dry summer, there is the potential of more fires. That will further burden volunteer fire departments in the area.”
Last week, members from the GF&P met with Meade County Commissioners who had posted on line, a draft of a letter (see below) to be sent to Governor Kristi Noem noting their opposition to the project based on a number of concerns, including costs to taxpayers. During the Dec. 21 meeting, (GF&P Discusses Concerns) and along with being told the 400 acre complex will stay on the tax rolls, the economic benefit of the shooting range was highlighted by GF&P as well as by representatives from Elevate Rapid City who were also in attendance.
“Meade County Commissioners, in their letter to the Governor, said this is a Rapid City project and a Pennington County project but they want to build it in Meade County. There is speculation the reason for that is Meade County has no zoning,” said Norman.
Beyond that, he questions the input from economic development representatives from Rapid City. “I don’t think Elevate Rapid City has any business going to Meade County with their estimates of what the project may realize in increased business and sales tax. If it’s that lucrative, why don’t they build it in Pennington County?”
Norman and other landowners say they’re not against a shooting range. But they are against the location of this one, saying there are better locations where an influx of an estimated 100,000 people annually, noise and lead pollution and an increase in crime and wildfires can be better managed.
“Law enforcement is overrun now,” he observed. “You add that much more traffic in this area – and with a response time coming out of Sturgis of around 45 minutes – you’re going to create more issues. And it doesn’t matter what the clientele is. With 100,000 people, you’re going to have some who shouldn’t be there.”
The property for the shooting complex has been purchased. The state GF&P has said publicly it is building it regardless of opposition. And the Meade County Commission has said it can’t stop the project. So, what’s next?
“We’ll see how the meeting goes,” said Norman. “If we’re going to proceed, I imagine we will start with the South Dakota Legislature. The first approach will be to visit with the Joint Committee on Appropriations and as many legislators as we can, stating our opposition to this project in Meade County.”
*Listen To This Interview ON DEMAND
*Public Meeting Location: Norman Ranch, 14410 218th Place, Piedmont, SD
*South Dakota GF&P Information Brochure
*Draft letter (below) posted earlier on the Meade County Commission website