East Bay Parks Board to Decide Whether Gun Club Can Stay in Chabot Park - NBC Bay Area
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East Bay Parks Board to Decide Whether Gun Club Can Stay in Chabot Park

The district claims the shooting range on public parkland violates state regulations.

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    The East Bay Parks District wants the Chabot Gun Club to clean up its act. Marianne Favro reports. (Published Tuesday, March 1, 2016)

    The East Bay Parks District wants the Chabot Gun Club to clean up its act.

    The district says the marksmanship facility on public parkland violates state lead regulations because bullets from the range pollute streams and soil.

    Peter Volin, a former park ranger from Albany, has been aiming to shut down the gun range for years. He said the way people use the parks today is incompatible with the noise and pollution from lead bullets.

    "That lead is entering the streams that lead directly down into Lake Chabot in frightful quantities," he said. People fish in the lake, which is a backup water supply for the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

    The Parks board late Tuesday considered whether to give the range in Anthony Chabot Regional Park a six-month lease extension and then shut it down for good. The board at the meeting ended up unanimously voting to give the gun club a one-year lease extension.

    Hundreds, mostly gun rights advocates, attended the East Bay Regional Park District Board meeting.

    "The constitution says we have a right to bear arms, but it doesn't do any good if they don't allow us any place to go shoot them does it? All we are shooting is targets. We are not committing any crimes," Fremont-resident Ron McCoy said.

    The Chabot Gun Club disputes the park's estimates of how much lead is in the soil and water, and how much it will cost to clean it up.

    Park staff members had recommended the board give the gun club a final lease extension of six months and then shut it down. The club had asked for another 10-year lease. It proposes to pay for the lead remediation by raising prices at the range.

    According to estimates from park officials, taxpayers are on the hook for lead remediation costing anywhere from $2.5 million to $20 million, and the parks district could be sued by environmentalists for violating state lead rules.

    On a busy Sunday morning at the range, shots echoed off the hills, bullets rolled underfoot and loyal members bemoaned the effort to shut down the range.

    "I'm not a scientist, but I think the lead issue is a red herring personally," said Daniel Kisner, an attorney from Fremont who collects vintage and replica guns.

    Club members and gun enthusiasts say the range is being targeted by gun-control activists and neighbors who don't like the noise.

    They bragged about the range's impeccable safety record and history of training civilians to treat weapons with respect and caution.

    "If you shut the range down, the lead doesn't disappear," said Robert Johnson, an avid shooter from Lafayette. Johnson said military and law enforcement need the range to train and civilians need a place to practice gun safety.

    Shutting down the range would pose "a bigger risk than having the lead. If we keep the range open, we can remediate whatever lead issues are migrating to a different location," he said.

    But Volin and other nature lovers aren't ready to lay down their arms until the last shot rings out at the range. "It's completely the opposite of what most people come to a regional park or a wilderness area for," he said.

    Alameda-resident Wilma Austern said it is discomforting hiking in the nearby hill and hearing guns going off.

    "I am also very concerned about the lead going into the water," Austern said.

    Contact Raquel Maria Dillon: raquel.dillon@nbcuni.com and @RaquelMDillon