STEELFIELD - It should be a matter of a few months before local gun owners will be able to unload at Bay County's first public gun range.
Workers are wrapping up phase one of the project. This project's been a long time in the making.
County Commissioners pushed for this range in response to the explosion in gun sales about six years ago. Gun owners complained they had no where to practice.
In response to the demand for a public shooting range, Bay County Commissioners convinced Sheriff Frank McKeithen to open his department's gun range to the public for an eight day trial. The trial, which took place in May of 2013, was enough to convince Commissioners of the need for a public shooting range.
In March, local officials broke ground on the range which is located in the Steelfield Community. The first phase is almost complete.
It will feature 50 yard to 100 yard rifle ranges and a 50 foot pistol range. "This is gonna be a really impressive state-of-the-art facility." said Valerie Sale who is the Public Information Officer for Bay County, "It's one of the only public gun ranges in the area."
Workers installed electrical and plumbing conduit this week. Sale added, "Right now they're putting the finishing touches on the baffles. We're waiting on a material we need to get from FWC for that. They're also building the shooting benches and the area from which people will shoot."
As hunting season draws near, popularity for the project is growing. The rest of the project is still a work in progress. County officials haven't set usage fees yet.
They say they'll decide that based on demand. Sale said, "I can tell you that I get so many phone calls from people interested in knowing when it's gonna open up. I think the demand for the facility is gonna be very high, so hopefully that will translate to a lower cost."
Once it's open, phase two construction will begin, featuring Skeet and Trap shooting ranges. Workers are trying to complete phase one as soon as possible.
County officials have not yet set an official opening date. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will run the new facility and is currently looking for employees and volunteers.