Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 1:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 1:50 p.m.
I am baffled by the baffles planned for the rifle and pistol ranges at Knight’s Trail Park.
Baffles are thick wooden beams, like louvres set in a roof, which the Sarasota County Parks Department believes are needed at the public ranges to reduce the risk of bullets escaping — even though that has never been an issue before.
The Parks Department is worried someone on the sporting clay
courses, which are about to be expanded, might be struck by an errant round.
Baffles are designed to prevent a shooter standing at the firing line from being able to shoot over the berm.
I know of another way to insure shooters use proper muzzle discipline. They’re called range safety officers, and they’re much cheaper than baffles.
It had been years since I shot at a baffled range — the last time was a horrible experience at a public range in Delaware — so I asked the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office for a tour of their facility, which is baffled by wooden 2-inch-by-3-inches, laminated together. There also are vertical wooden supporting posts scattered throughout the range.
The county gave the range to the sheriff’s office decades ago, with
the baffles already installed. They weren’t something the rangemaster specifically requested.
Even though we didn’t shoot during the tour, there were shooters on nearby ranges. That was more than enough for me.
The baffles created an echo chamber of sorts. Sound from the nearby shooters reverberated around the baffled range, even though the shooters weren’t actually inside.
To be clear, the public ranges would need fewer baffles, since civilian shooters fire from a fixed position. The deputies shoot from different distances at the sheriff’s range.
Still, a baffled range amplifies the noise of gunfire by keeping some of the sound inside, rather than allowing it to dissipate naturally.
If baffles are installed at the public ranges, it will not be a pleasant shooting experience. It’s far too loud. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way to be more careful with ambient noise, in order to safeguard what little hearing I have left.
Noise isn’t the only concern. Getting a cost estimate from the Parks Department has not been easy.
In an email, county parks director Carolyn Brown sent to Bill Cline, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s section leader for public shooting ranges last November, Brown calculated it would only cost $90,000 to baffle the rifle range and $125,000 to install baffles on the pistol range.
“Does that seem appropriate? $215,000?” she asked the FWC official.
It appears Brown’s estimate was a bit low.
In January, a professional range engineer from Jacksonville provided a much higher figure.
“We estimate at a planning stage your construction cost to be $541,000,” wrote Clark Vargas, president of C. Vargas & Associates Ltd.
Vargas also pointed out that his firm’s fee for its engineering services would be 5.14 percent of the construction cost, which he said are “standard engineering fees.”
If this proposal goes through, I doubt the final cost will be anything close to Vargas’ initial estimate, because county projects have a habit of exceeding their budgets.
Let’s review: The Parks Department wants to spend more than a half-million taxpayer dollars to “fix” a “problem” that may not actually exist.
This “problem,” if in fact it does exist, could be solved much easier and far cheaper by their own range safety officers.
The “fix” will create more noise and add an echo effect to a popular public range.
And the actual cost to taxpayers has yet to be determined?
I guess if you’re a government bureaucrat this makes perfect sense.
They should just leave the range alone.
If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 361-4975, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can also follow me on social media at www.facebook.com/TheGunWriter or www.Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter