Members of the Chabot Gun Club turned out in force Tuesday evening and won a yearlong lease extension from the East Bay Parks District board - a short reprieve for gun enthusiasts who succeeded in securing six months more that district staff had recommended.
But the victory is shortlived. The longterm plan is now to shutter the 53-year-old marksmanship range and begin the expensive cleanup of lead from bullets left on the site after half a century of use. Parks officials say it will cost millions of dollars to clean up the lead in the soil.
At the meeting where 230 speakers came out, General Manager Robert Doyle said the decision to shut down the club was difficult, because it provided a service by training law enforcement and private citizens to handle firearms properly. But leaving the marksmanship range open left the district vulnerable to lawsuits from environmentalists.
"We know so much more about lead than we did 10 years ago, 20 years ago," Doyle said. "We’ve got 53 years of lead in the soil that’s got to be addressed. We can’t kick it down the road."
At the five-hour meeting, club members and shooting aficionados outnumbered the neighbors who were worried about noise and lead at the meeting.
Paul Hillar, a Chabot Gun Club member, who started shooting there when he was 8 yearsold, said the board should have given the club a chance to contribute to cleanup costs, and taxpayers will have to pay more for lead abatement in the long run now.
"I've lost three gun ranges in my lifetime down in Fremont where I’m from. Washington Township Gun Club, Niles Gun Club, Hillard Gun Club. And it was all because of bureaucracy," he said.
Environmentalists were pleased that there would finally be an end to the noise that echoes around that corner of the park and nearby neighborhoods.