There was a large turnout Monday at the Chabot Gun Club in Alameda County's Chabot Regional Park. It was the club's last day of operation.
The two year battle over the fate of the gun club ended in March when the East Bay Regional Parks District turned down a lead cleanup plan submitted by the gun club.
Range master John Maunder said the closing of the facility means the gun club's 1,000 members, the general public and law enforcement organizations will all be losing one of the largest ranges in the Bay Area. The official reason: lead in the millions of bullets fired here and the threat it poses to land and water.
"The real reason is the East Bay Regional Park District doesn't want a gun range in its system anymore," Maunder said.
A parks department spokesperson said stricter environmental regulations forced their hand.
"It's going to cost a lot of money to clean up that site because of all the lead bullets that have been pounded into the dirt for so long," district spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said. "Anywhere between $2 million and $20 million, depending on the level of contamination."
Donald Keys, of Hayward, has used the range for years to practice his marksmanship with a variety of handguns.
"To please the environmentalists, they just decided to, you know, to save face and shut the range down, which is not fair," Keys said.
Drake Owens and his 87-year-old father Earl have been coming to the gun club since it opened in the 1960s.
"The board of the park district had an agenda, and no matter what, they were going to see us out," Owens said. "And that breaks my heart."
Maunder said other gun ranges in the Bay Area report being overwhelmed by gun owners looking for a place to shoot and learn gun safety.
"If you don't have a good place to train and practice, there are going to be accidents," Maunder said. "That's pretty simple."