Options available for shooting enthusiasts
by Chris Norwood
Shooting enthusiasts in Talladega County already have some good options, but they are going to be getting at least two more in the next few years.

First, a shooting sports complex was part of the federally endorsed plan to convert the former military facility in Brecon into the TOP Trails Park.

Chuck Roberts of C.D. Roberts and Associates, the park’s professional services group, said this phase of the development is still pretty basic.

“We don’t really have anything done yet,” he said. “The board recently proposed a request for qualifications for engineers for module one,” he said. “Those just went out. Once we have the plans, hopefully construction will start this spring.”

Module one would include public rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges. The engineer may also do design work for the entire facility, but it is too early to say, Roberts said.

Overall development of the park will take an estimated 10 to 15 years. When the shooting complex is complete, it will include 11 different types of ranges, he said.

These will include skeet shooting, trap shooting, sporting clays “and pretty much anything else involving a projectile and a static target.” The complex will be set up to host tournaments and other competitive events.

There will also be an archery component at the park.

Roberts said the early phases would likely get grant funding through the federal Pittman-Robinson Program. The National Rifle Association was also approached about funding, but indicated it would be more likely to approve funding after construction began.

TOP Trails had originally sought a partnership with the Civilian Marksmanship Program, but the deal never went through, according to Mark Johnson, CMP’s deputy chief operating officer. There was no ill will, however, and CMP has now acquired 497 acres at 4797 Turners Mill Road. This development is also still in the embryonic phase.

Johnson, who is a native of Talladega, said the TOP Trails Board could not sell the property for the shooting complex or lease it for long enough to justify to his board such a large capital expenditure. “We wish them luck and want to see them succeed, but we couldn’t spend millions of dollars on property that we will never own and couldn’t get a long enough lease on. We have wanted to have a home range in Anniston for at least 11 years, but we could never make that happen. We had the opportunity in Talladega and thought it was time.”

CMP has had existing roads cleared out and fencing and a perimeter road have been bid out.

“We’ve hired an architect, and once we have a master plan we will submit that to our board. Once they approve a plan, we start pushing dirt,” Johnson said

Phase one will likely include a 600 yard range, but “we’ve got multiple plans with different costs for everything that has to be approved by the board. We don’t have a kickoff date yet, but we’re hoping to start next year with the 600 yard range and 50 firing points,” he said.

Future plans include pistol and shotgun ranges, a 100 yard range for small bore and silhouette shooting, a 50 yard pistol range, skeet and trap shooting with shotguns and more. Overall, there will be six phases of development, but it is too early to site a completion date, Johnson said.

“It’s all a la carte. In phase one, for instance, they could choose to have gravel roads and parking lot, or they could pave them, depending on what they want to spend,” he said.

CMP will always “do what we say we’re going to do,” Johnson said. “We haven’t advertised that we acquired this property or that there will be a future range there. And we won’t start advertising it until it is built. We don’t make promises we might not be able to keep, it’s that simple. Our board could end up turning down the whole project. Also, we’re not asking Talladega County for a dime, just like we never asked Calhoun County for anything. We just want to help the local economy.”

CMP has established two test ranges on its Talladega property.

When it is finished, the CMP facility will be able to accommodate a 400 person match per day over a period of four days. Many of these will compete in multiple events, the overall attendance will probably be in the 750 to 1,000 range. Monthly matches on Saturdays would draw 75 to 100 shooters, quarterly two day matches would draw 200 to 250 and biannual events could draw up to 1,000, Johnson said.

The facilities for daily use are currently slated for phase two of the development, but the primary emphasis will be competition.

And, of course, during the years of long-term development, there are still at least three recreational shooting facilities in Talladega County.

Sellwood Farms is owned by Dell Hill, and features sporting clays as well as quail hunts.

Hill said the farm was acquired by his father and was an agricultural operation until the 1980s, “when things went south. We looked at our options, and we started doing the quail hunts in 1984. We added the sporting clays in 1990, and added the Country House in 2000.”

The Country House serves as a lodge and meeting space, usually for smaller groups that have come to hunt and shoot, and features a family friendly atmosphere.

Sporting clay packages are $35 per person for 100 targets and $22 per person for 50 targets.

Quail season runs from October through March, but sporting clays are available year round.

Sheperds Branch in the Cheaha National Forest is also home to a shooting range, according to Ranger Gloria Nielson. It features four benches and 25 yard, 50 yard and 100 yard lanes. There are restrooms on the facility as well.

The target area is made up of a series of posts with chicken wire between them. Shooters bring in their own paper targets to hang on the chicken wire.

The cost is $3 per vehicle, on the honor system. Clay pigeons, bottles and cans are not allowed, and alcohol is not allowed. Tracer bullets and armor piercing ammunition are also banned.

Shepherds Branch is open year round, but fall is a particularly popular time, Neilson said.

“The leaves are beautiful and people are getting ready for hunting season.”

The Red Eagle Skeet and Trap Club is located in Childersburg. As the name would imply, they feature skeet and trap shooting as well as five stands. They work closely with 4H and other programs highlighting gun safety and they pride themselves on a family atmosphere.

They are open all day Saturdays and Sundays. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they are open from noon until dark.

© 2012