PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The shooting range that South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department plans to build near Rapid City, at a cost of $10 million to $12 million, might have to be less sweeping without financial help from state lawmakers, the department’s head says.
The comments Friday from GFP Secretary Kevin Robling came less than a day after the governor-appointed Game, Fish and Parks Commission officially committed to buying the 400-acres site in Meade County from the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation for $900,000.
Four days remain in the main run of the 2022 legislative session to decide on the department’s $2.5 million request. A key vote likely comes Monday afternoon, on whether the House of Representatives wants to debate the legislation, SB 175. The department has $2.5 million of federal tax revenue from guns and ammo sales to put toward the project and wants to raise another $5 million to $7 million from donors.
“If we weren’t to get the money though from the Legislature, we’re talking that we’d have to raise about nine million dollars of private donations to build this facility, and that would take, I’m sure, a long time. So we would have to do it in phases. We might not be able to do it at all,” Robling said.
He specifically mentioned the north end of the range where law enforcement officers would train: “We’d likely have to phase that in. The project would look different, it really would, if this money isn’t acquired here with the Legislature next week.”
The House Appropriations chairman, Representative Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, said the department came to the Legislature for approval “after the fact.” Asked Friday for a response, Robling said, “There’s been no dirt turned. There’s been no fences put in. There’s none of that. So we are still in the early phases, even though we’ve been talking about this shooting complex for over a year now. We’ve been putting design plans in place. We’ve been working with neighbors. We’ve been working with the county. There’s been a ton of work put into this thing.”
Robling said the department looked for a suitable site for three or four years. The Meade County warranty deed shows that the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, which is a not-for-profit fundraising arm of the department housed in the same building, acquired the land one year ago for $1 “and other good and valuable consideration,” from 7 0 Ranch LLC, of rural Piedmont. The ranch’s manager, Kenneth Cassens, signed the deed.
Rapid City businessman Jim Scull had signed the earlier purchase agreement with Cassens for the land on behalf of the foundation and department. Robling said Cassens knew the land would be used for a shooting range. “Yes, that conversation was right away with that landowner, and then we started to branch out to the other surrounding landowners,” Robling said.
The site along Elk Vale Road is about 10 miles north of the Flying J truck stop at the far-eastern edge of greater Rapid City. “A great location, off a good county road, it has the topography that would work very, very well for a shooting range,” Robling said.
He described the project as “a partnership” with Meade County and communities such as Piedmont, Tilford, Rapid City, Sturgis “and western South Dakota.” The department’s goal, he said, is “to provide those shooting-sports opportunities for families…in a safe, designated, convenient place for shooters to shoot. And that’s really what this is all about.”
Contractors would install sound-muffling devices such as baffles and build berms, according to Robling. “Lots of work to do, no doubt, this is a big project,” he said. “I think it will serve this great state for generations to come. It will really serve South Dakota thirty, forty, a hundred years from now.”