Hoping to tap into a potentially well-heeled slice of people who travel and pay to pursue their hobby, Pasco County could become a home for those who mix gunpowder with their recreation.
Commissioner Henry Wilson received the board’s permission to continue pursuing the idea of a shooting range for competitive tournaments that could draw visitors and their wallets to the county.
That’s as long as any shooting range effort doesn’t siphon money from the already strained county park budget, commissioners said at their Aug. 9 meeting in Dade City.
A range could also benefit the sheriff’s office and police departments that have no place in the county for firearm practice.
The idea is preliminary, and it's too early to estimate any cost, Wilson said. It came from a single remark by a man who said he traveled outside Florida to use his guns at ranges.
If people leave Florida, they may be willing to travel to Pasco to use a gun range, he said.
A basic range would need about 40 to 50 acres, he said, but a higher level facility could cover 200 to 300 acres.
Chunks of land that size and far enough away from other activities to keep things safe are mainly clustered in Central Pasco.
Wilson said tracts at the Crossbar Ranch and the 6,533-acre Serenova property near the Suncoast Expressway and State Road 52 are possible sites.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Ted Schrader suggested looking at part of the Connerton property near the county jail because it is distant from neighbors who could be bothered by gunfire.
Also, Wilson is talking with Tampa Bay Sporting Clays, which uses 260 acres off Ehren Cutoff Road in Land O’ Lakes, Wilson said.
A survey conducted by Wilson drew 4,000 responses, with 1,500 coming from outside Pasco showing an interest in traveling to the county for a shooting range.
Responses came from nearly half of Florida’s 67 counties and from other states, he said. Eight people objected to the idea.
Hobby shooters could use the range, paying for everything from targets to ammunition to ear plugs.
He said a range run by the Hernando Sportsman’s Club on U.S. 19 north of Weeki Wachee charges the public to use the range. The club offers shooting matches for members and the public.
The county might snag federal help to develop a shooting range. Wilson said the Department of Homeland Security may pay part of the cost if a place is large enough to accommodate the sheriff and public.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri, whose district includes most of the potential range sites, said she supported marrying the sheriff’s needs with a public range.
Wilson said tournaments could cover rifle, pistol and even cowboy competitions.
He will report back to commissioners on progress of the idea.
“I believe we have the need to move forward into looking for the right piece of land,” Wilson said at the meeting.