Get your last sentimental shots in now, because come January, the unofficial shooting area at the Old Dump in Clarkdale will close.
Due to high levels of lead, arsenic and antimony, the U.S. Forest Service has been mandated to close the area off Forest Road 493 to remove contaminated soil. These three contaminants are all used in manufacturing bullets. No other waste from the old dump — such as hazardous gases — was observed at critical levels. The roads will not be closed. The area is part of the Prescott National Forest. The non-discretionary action is the result of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act and a study taken under direction of Anne Fischer.
Fischer, USFS Rangers and Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig held a meeting to discuss what should be done moving forward in the area.
The area to be closed to the public will also be enveloped with a non-shooting area, citing safety of workers and the public as heavy machinery will be moving soil. For those unfamiliar, the Old Dump is off West Mingus Avenue. Normally, recreational shooting is allowed on federal public land. The restrictions will be in place for two years, the maximum timeframe USFS is allowed to make.
The problem moving ahead is that the Old Dump is too encroached upon by new residents. Von Gausig said that it will be difficult for some, as generations have learned to shoot at the area that was once an official dump, then subject to “wildcat dumping.”
Further, the creation of a designated shooting area — one does not currently exist in Verde Valley USFS land — runs the risk of creating the same soil problem somewhere else if not maintained. As a result, USFS said it would like to try to keep people more spread out when shooting until a plan is put in place.
Surveys showed that lead levels were:
- Lead: 48,000 mg/kg [nonresidential soil remediation level of 800 mg/kg]
- Arsenic: 100 mg/kg [10 mg/kg]
- Antimony: 640 mg/kg [410 mg/kg]
The plan so far is to remove the contaminated soil and transfer it to a nearby cell area, where it will be covered over. New vegetation will be planted and future use of the area will be handled by the Verde Front group, which is planning a new trail system.
Signs will be posted around both the shooting restricted zone as well as that which is closed to the public. Violation of this closure will result in a low-level misdemeanor.
HelioTech is the contractor moving the soil. The contract is worth roughly half a million dollars, according to Fischer. Work is expected to begin by the end of January.
USFS officials said that so far, they have not heard much from the local gun community but they have reached out to state and national associations such as the NRA. They urged local voices to speak out, as there is still some leeway that USFS has at least in terms of boundaries currently set up as well as a future plan to put in place.