The city is stuck in the firing line in a dispute between residents and gun club officials.
When the City Council informed the public that Spanish Fork is eligible for a $250,000 grant from the State Division of Wildlife Resources for development of a hunter-education facility, questions arose about safety concerns with the location of the current Spanish Fork Gun Club.The club is southwest of the Spanish Oaks Golf Course, 3430 E. Power House Road - and just two blocks away from the Oaks Subdivision.
Oaks residents told the council that they are concerned with traffic, parties and recreational four-wheeling in the area, adding that expanding the current facilities might worsen those problems. Additionally, residents presented each council member with signed letters opposing the proposal and addressing those concerns.
Leonard Ellis, 2500 Oakridge Drive, is acting as a spokesman for the group. He told the Deseret News that the group is not opposed to the gun club, just the placement of it.
"I think there has to be a better location for such a club rather than around residents. We certainly don't want to see gun-club operations expand in its current location."
A charter member of the club, Ellis said he believes gun club members are responsible. However, the gun club seems to draw some elements that make it difficult for both the club and residents to coexist peacefully, he said.
"We've seen a lot of traffic and alcohol consumption come with the range, and that's not something we're encouraged to see."
With the facility located at the city's southeastern perimeter without much supervision in the area, safety for schoolchildren is a prime concern, Ellis said.
The club's early shooting activities were restricted to a few times weekly, Ellis said. However, activities now have "escalated to daily activity, which is at a tolerance level beyond what residences should have to put up with."
City officials are keeping mum on their plans for the project, which would include construction of classroom facilities, restrooms and campground and picnic areas, as well as new rifle, pistol and archery ranges. The complex would be the exclusive hunter-education facility for Utah County.
Indicating they will investigate the complaints, council members have postponed indefinitely any action on the proposal.
However, gun club members say that the residents are characterizing them in a bad light, and that many of the problems also stem from golf course traffic. Former club president Robert Wall, himself an Oaks resident, said building the new facility may actually make the area safer.
"In every other gun club in the country, improvements such as these have led to a decrease in vandalism and also a more family-oriented facility."
The golf course and Spanish Fork Canyon traffic may also account for some of the problems, Wall said, adding that the canyon areas do not belong to Oaks residents alone.
"This is an area that should be developed for recreational purposes for all residents of the area and not just a favored few."