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Public shooting range closed for weeks for cleanup, repairs

Nathan Baker • Jan 30, 2020 at 4:07 PM

A public shooting range in the Cherokee National Forest left trashed and damaged will be closed for weeks while staff clean and repair it.

Unaka District Ranger Leslie Morgan said the Scioto Rifle Range, National Forest System Road 53571, in Unicoi County, was heavily damaged by irresponsible shooters.

Someone left shot-up propane canisters, cans, bottles and Teddy bears all over the range.

“It looked like it snowed all over it,” from the bear stuffing, she said.

Range rules only permit the use of paper targets, and users are asked to clean up after themselves.

It also appeared visitors had been blasting their shotguns into the ground and the chat walkway, Morgan said, leaving craters to be fixed.

Shortly after the Forest Service closed the range and announced the reason, someone came and cleaned most of the trash, but the remainder of the repairs will likely take another two weeks, Morgan estimated.

The range isn’t managed by staff from the Forest Service office in nearby Unicoi. It’s under the ranger station in Greeneville. It’s commonly mistreated because there aren’t enough rangers to staff it full-time.

“It’s difficult to manage unless we have somebody at the site all the time,” Morgan said. “We try to keep up with it as best we can, but I’ve only got three rec staff members to cover four counties.

“There’s just not a lot of respect for public land.”

If irresponsible use continues, she said the Forest Service may have to install video cameras to discourage it.

Morgan said the Forest Service is looking for a gun club or another group to adopt the range to help with future maintenance and cleanup.

If interested, contact Leslie Morgan at 423-638-4900.