Mountain residents, especially in Nederland, are quite literally a mixed bag.  My original perception of people who lived in the mountains was that everyone was like me, lovers of nature and wildlife and most of all peacefulness.  But it turns out that the mountains has its fair share of folks who love noisy machines like ATVs, snowmobiles, and yes, shooting.  I’ve never been a big fan of hunting, but understand those who do.  It is a sport, and requires the use of either a bow and arrow or a rifle.  But I must admit, I’ve been a bit miffed at the sounds of shots routinely ringing out in our neighborhood or while hiking with the dogs on forest lands during non-hunting seasons.  Turns out the mountains are also a haven for sport shooting enthusiasts, and it has become a very contentious issue.

Last Monday, the Northern Front Range Recreational Sport Shooting Partnership hosted an open house meeting at the Nederland Community Center to present proposed designated sites for shooting around Nederland and throughout the mountain communities in Boulder County.  Though it wasn’t intended to be a question and answer session, it quickly became heated, as several Nederland residents voiced their strong feelings regarding proposed sport shooting sites near their neighborhoods.  Apparently, in Boulder County, all the designated shooting sites are in the mountains, purportedly because “people want to come up here to shoot and enjoy the mountain experience.”

A quick disclaimer here:  I have never engaged in sport shooting, and don’t intend to in the future.  So I really can’t speak to that side of this volatile issue.  But I can say, as someone who has resided in the mountains, that I have had my own experiences with sport shooting around Nederland, and they weren’t very favorable.  It’s true, most of us who choose to live here as opposed to Boulder or Longmont, do so, because in part we enjoy our peace and quiet.  No one wants to be sitting on your deck in the evening, only to hear the barrage of gunfire pierce the peace and quiet.  It’s also slightly unnerving to be hiking in the area, and hear the constant patter of gunfire, while not feeling entirely sure where it’s coming from or how close it is.

But the thing that scares me the most about sport shooting in the mountains is its connection to wildfires, which we experienced last year.  I was with my brother on an overnight visit to Colorado Springs, when I got a frantic phone call from Bryon, saying he was trying to find our cat carriers, because he thought he might have to evacuate the house.  Turns out, some people were shooting at exploding targets on the ridge opposite our house, less than mile away on a warm day, and set the ridge on fire.  It quickly burned several acres before the local firefighters were able to put it out, but had it been windy, it could have turned into a catastrophic wildfire that could have burned up homes in our neighborhood, including ours.  Of course, the shooters ran off like cowards to avoid being caught.

I was so incensed by that incident, I was ready to write a letter to the County Council, urging them to ban shooting of all kinds during the peak fire season, from May through September.  To think that these people had put our home and even our lives at risk, while engaging in something so frivolous and dangerous just made my blood boil.  Logically, I know that those people were horribly stupid and irresponsible, and I’m sure there are plenty of sport shooters that are decent, law-abiding people.  But my reaction was similar to the feelings voiced at the meeting last Monday — “not in my back yard.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether mountain residents can come to some amicable resolution with the sport shooting enthusiasts who want to recreate in the mountains we call home.  Like so many other things, it’s just another part of mountain living that presents unique challenges — more to be revealed.