Steamboat Springs Thanks to a land donation from Peabody Energy, plans for a Northwest Colorado firing range and training facility for law enforcement are poised to get off the ground.
The impetus to develop the proposed Northwest Colorado Law Enforcement Training Facility came to a head in recent years as encroaching development drew closer to the Routt County Rifle Club's range west of Steamboat Springs, said Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger. The range shares a border with the proposed Steamboat 700 development.
Best estimates are that the existing range could be gone within two to three years, Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said, though the Rifle Club has expressed a desire to relocate.
For non-firearms training, the Routt County Sheriff's Office currently uses whatever space it can get its hands on, including the Routt County Justice Center, Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus and school buildings across the county, Wall said.
The Northwest Colorado Law Enforcement Training Facility would not only provide a permanent space for training exercises, but the firing range will be designed with a law enforcement-specific focus, such as the inclusion of a 300-yard lane for sniper training.
"Presently, there's no place to practice that," Undersheriff David Bustos said.
"We as law enforcement train a little bit differently than your average civilian," Klinger said. "We train tactical teams, and it's easier if we have our own space."
Klinger and others working on the project approached Peabody Energy, which owns Twentymile Coal Co., while looking at potential land for the facility. Peabody has offered a 40-acre parcel off Routt County Road 33, about two miles from the mine.
"It's a huge community asset that they're giving us," Wall said. "We're ecstatic that it looks like this project will be coming along."
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that would accept the donation of Peabody's land and run the training facility expects to receive federal approval in the coming weeks. The Routt County sheriff and public safety director for the city of Steamboat Springs would have guaranteed seats on the Northwest Colorado Law Enforcement Training Facility's board of directors.
The heads of those two agencies each would nominate an additional board member, and the remaining trio of three-year seats would be filled by members of the public with relevant special expertise, Investigator Mike Curzon said.
Others involved in the project include Sgt. Miles DeYoung from the Sheriff's Office, and Det. Dave Kleiber and Capt. Bob DelValle from the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Klinger said. Their next steps are putting together the facility's business plan and developing a construction phase plan, for use in grant applications later this year.
State and federal grant funding is expected to be a big factor in paying for the facility, and the board also will be seeking in-kind donations of time and equipment, Klinger said.
"We're on the ground floor figuring out what all the finances are, but we believe it's all there," Wall said.
The facility's initial revenue stream will be from memberships, which will cost $100 a head for law enforcement agencies, Klinger said. That price is equivalent to what agencies pay for their Routt County Rifle Club memberships, he said.
A number of Routt and Moffat county law enforcement organizations, along with state and federal agencies, have expressed interested in becoming members, including Colorado State Parks, the Hayden Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Klinger said.
The Northwest Colorado Law Enforcement Training Facility would be modeled to a large degree after the Highlands Ranch training facility in Douglas County, which is used by more than 50 agencies. In addition to the range, the facility ideally would eventually include indoor and outdoor training space and a driving track, Klinger said.
Construction of the facility would begin with the outdoor range, which could be at least partly operational as early as summer if everything goes according to plan, Klinger said.