Mitchell City Council advances plan to build gun range, as local gun enthusiasts say demand is strong

The locations the city is eyeing to build the gun range are northwest of the former Kelley property and an area near the city landfill

Skylar Simon, left, gets instructions from Utah firearms instructor Dan Hood at a Utah gun range.
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MITCHELL — Mitchell is moving closer toward building a publicly accessible gun range, something local gun enthusiasts say would get “utilized by a lot of people.”

The Mitchell City Council approved an agreement Monday that will bring a team of engineers to evaluate two potential sites where city leaders have identified as ideal locations for the proposed gun range.

Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said the layout of the rifle gun range would aim to feature 100- and 200-yard ranges and 500- and 1,000-yard ranges, along with two pistol bays.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson revealed the pair of locations where the city is eyeing to build the gun range, which are the northwest section of the former Kelley property west of Lake Mitchell and an area near the city landfill on the south edge of Mitchell.

While the city is advancing its plan to build an outdoor gun range, is there a demand? Chuck Oster, a Mitchell resident who was the former leader of a local shooting club, staked his claim that there is a strong demand in Mitchell for a publicly accessible gun range.


“The only thing I can tell you is when I was secretary (of the shooting club) we ended up mailing out 150 newsletters a month to people who paid to go out there to shoot. I’m basically telling you the interest is there,” Oster said. “I’m just very excited about the idea that we might have some place to go.”

The Mitchell area used to have a member-based gun range, but it shut down in 2007, Oster said.

The city would look to the South Dakota, Game, Fish and Parks to assist in funding the build out of the outdoor gun range, if the project materializes. Arden Petersen, an official with the GF&P, provided a glimpse of how the GF&P has helped fund gun ranges in other like sized cities, such as Watertown.

“It’s been very well used, and it’s been a good thing for the city of Watertown,” Petersen said of the Watertown gun range that was recently built. “I think it would really fit a niche here in Mitchell. People are looking for a place to go out to shoot. Whether it’s to sight in their gun to deer hunt or just go out there to shoot paper.”

Petersen echoed the growing demand for gun ranges, which he said has become a national trend as of recent.

In response to the council’s questions about a rough price tag of such a project, Petersen said Watertown’s gun range had a cost of roughly $700,000. However, he said bids came in well below that roughly $700,000 price tag.

According to Petersen, the GF&P typically funds roughly 75% of the project, leaving municipalities to cover the remaining 25%.

“That’s always up to taking a look at what we have available for funds. There is competition across the state for utilization of those funds. I can say this is a project that our agency would look at as very favorable,” Petersen added.


Based on Petersen’s explanation of gun ranges mimicking the one Mitchell is pursuing, the facility requires little maintenance and personnel compared to other city facilities. He said Watertown’s gun range is monitored with the help of security cameras and occasional staff performing routine maintenance.

“I don’t believe they have someone out there all the time. It’s pretty well-policed by the people who are out there. They have a restroom out there and garbage cans, and I can tell you it is extremely clean,” he said of the Watertown gun range, which is open to the public and does not require a usage fee.

Everson said the Parks and Recreation Department would be tasked with overseeing Mitchell’s gun range.

The city is hiring Civil Design Inc. to evaluate the layout of the potential gun range sites. The engineer evaluation work is estimated to cost $11,000 and will provide a preliminary cost of the project.

Of the two locations, Everson said the former Kelley property could offer more space and make way for longer ranges.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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