Commissioners approve shooting & archery range in Cook County
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Commissioners approve shooting & archery range in Cook County

An established shooting and archery range, led by the Flintlock Range Association, is coming to Cook County. 

As it stands, Cook County is the sole Minnesota county without a recognized shooting range, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 during the Jan. 23 meeting to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) to establish a shooting range to operate an outdoor sports park, which will host a variety of shooting ranges, courses, and public and private events. The location of the proposed shooting range is on a county-owned 360-acre parcel located approximately nine miles up the Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais on FS Road 304. The Cook County Planning Commission initially recommended approval of the shooting range in a Dec. 13 meeting

Within the CUP application, the Flintlock Range Association proposed the shooting range will provide a training facility for law enforcement officials and an established location to host youth and volunteer firearm safety certifications. Local law enforcement, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials, currently conduct required training in gravel pits or at the shooting range in Silver Bay.

In addition to approving the CUP, the commissioners approved a five-year lease agreement with the Flintlock Range Association to operate the shooting range on the county-owned parcel. The county will lease the property to Flintlock Range Association for $1. At the end of the five-year lease, the agreement states the lease shall automatically renew for one year unless either party gives notice of its intent not to renew before 60 days before the termination date.

During the Jan. 23 public comment period, Flintlock President Justin Rexrode said the effort to establish a shooting range in Cook County has been in the works for nearly 20 years. “I believe a shooting range in Cook County is a great benefit to the county. It’s the last puzzle piece to our recreation haven that we have up here,” he said. 

Two nearby property owners spoke during the public comment period to express their concerns about the shooting range. The concerns focused on the potential noise impact the shooting range will have on their property. 

The Flintlock Range Association conducted a sound study on the property and surrounding area in 2015 in collaboration with the Minnesota DNR. The sound study included three sites: the nearest private property, George Washington Pines parking lot, and Kimball Lake campground. Five different types of firearms were used in the study, each shooting three rounds. No site measured decibel levels over 40 dB of all the tests run. According to the dB level graph provided by Cook County officials in the application packet, 40 dB is an equivalent sound level to a refrigerator hum.

“Noise is a pretty common issue that we do have to discuss and one of the decision criteria that is based on for conditional use permits,” said Land Services Director Tim Nelson during the meeting. “It’s really easy to generate the worst-case scenario.” 

Given the property is surrounded by public land, Nelson said, it offers a unique perspective. “Interestingly enough, because of the situation and the placement of this facility and the fact that it’s surrounded by all public lands, one can actually go off of the range facility much much closer to any private land out there and legally be able to shoot their gun anytime they want, because it’s public land.” 

After Nelson spoke, Commissioner Ginny Storlie discussed potential options to reduce hours of operation to help mitigate noise and said, “I think this is a great asset for the county.”

Next, Commissioner Ann Sullivan said she has been in contact with the Flintlock Range Association to discuss hours of operation. She said Flintlock is willing to work with community members concerned about hours of operation and noise. 

Find the full January 23 County Commissioner’s meeting here.