ST. GEORGE — Santa Clara City Council heard from several members of the public at their Wednesday meeting before voting to approve funding for an environmental assessment of the location for a proposed shooting range in the South Hills area.
The area known as South Hills in Santa Clara is commonly used for shooting and target practice, as well as being home to multiple hiking and biking trails such as the Cove Wash and Barrel Roll trails. The area is located a mile away from homes and neighborhoods on the outer limits of Santa Clara City. Although the land is within city limits, it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and any development in the area must be allowed by the bureau.
Due to reports of dangerous encounters between shooters and hikers in the area, loud noise and litter, the city proposed a designated shooting range instead of banning shooting. Seven residents of the nearby neighborhoods attended the council meeting to give input on the proposal, including a woman who said that since walking her dog in the area several years ago and narrowly escaping a bullet, she is terrified to go back or even sit on her back porch.
“I’m terrified because of the shooting up there,” she said. “But an even bigger issue for me is when I moved here, I moved into this nice, quiet, friendly valley, and I want you to know that there is not a Saturday in the last probably four or five years that I have been able to sit out on my patio on the north side of my house … and not feel like I could be living in Afghanistan or Iran because of all the shooting that’s out there.”
Her husband added that they can oftentimes hear shooting every day of the week as late as after dark from their house, which directly overlooks the South Hills area. The noise is disturbing to residents and will likely disturb anyone staying at a vacation rental, should the city build any developments nearby, he said.
“I think that area needs to be shut down,” he said. “I think this should be considered: the city of Santa Clara doesn’t have a shooting ordinance in the city limits. Ivins does. St. George does. Washington does. We don’t have one. The only thing they fall back on is the state regulation … It sounds like a warzone out there.”
Another resident of the neighborhood said that as an avid shooter, he understands both sides of the issue but would like to see a shooting range. Any development in the area would not only supplement the locals’ experience in their backyards, but also attract tourists and anyone who enjoys target practice, he said.
“Like anything, it’s up to the shooter to be responsible,” he said. “Throwing that away for families and people to use and exercise that right and have that be part of their community, I don’t agree with that.”
Council voted after the discussion to approve a $24,898 survey that will assess whether the proposed location is viable for a shooting range. The city will work with the BLM to assess 270 acres and detect any desert tortoise, Holmgren milkvetch, Shivwits milkvetch, Siler pincushion cactus and dwarf bear-poppy in the area, according to the city’s request for action. The price of the survey is expected to increase due to requests from the BLM for further assessment.
“The original bid to survey the area was $14,000,” parks and trails director Brad Hays said during the meeting. “The reason for the increase is … they will need to have a 300-foot buffer for the survey since this will be Holmgren milkvetch habitat in the area, which is a critical concern.”
The city will contact the BLM and work with them to assess the location. BLM Color Country District public affairs specialist Christian Venhuizen told St. George News that the BLM is in the process of discussing a possible environmental assessment and working with the city to approve one.
“The Bureau of Land Management’s St. George Field Office continues to work closely with the city of Santa Clara as community partners attempting to find a safe location for a shooting range,” Venhuizen said. “We will make sure the public has an opportunity to review and comment on any proposal to construct that facility on BLM managed lands.”
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