The state collects severance taxes from companies that extract nonrenewable resources in Colorado. Some of this money goes to communities in the form of large grants. Most of these grants go to communities to help build fire stations, upgrade water systems, restore historic sites, and aid with other infrastructure or economic development projects. The program is also providing funds for a shooting range on the Western Slope.
Roger Granat is the 73-year-old mayor of Palisade. He grew up there. And as a boy, he would often visit the neighboring community of Cameo.
"The general store and the post office sat over here on our right," Granat said on a recent visit to the old town site.
The community, the coal mine and power plant that were once in this desert area near the Colorado River are gone. What’s left is a transformer station and covered piles of remediated coal ash.
However, one echo of Cameo remains. Granat said since he was a kid people have come to this area for target practice. It’s right next to the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area.
"And as your can see there’s a lot trash," he said. "There’s mattresses [and] pieces of particle board up on the hill. There's a tire."
The ground is also littered with cartridge casings and other debris.
Granat, a hunter education instructor, said seeing this mess out here disappoints him.
"It gives all shooters a real bad name," he said.
That’s why he wants Palisade to purchase this land from Xcel Energy and Snowcap Coal to build a shooting range.
Granat brought this idea to town administrator Rich Sales three years ago.
"There was a grant opportunity through parks and wildlife for small shooting ranges," Sales said. "I contacted parks and wildlife and they said ‘well what are you thinking about’ and we explained a relatively smaller venue. And they said, ‘we’ve been looking for a site for a regional sports shooting complex and would you guys be willing to think about scaling up?’"
Colorado Parks and Wildlife proposed a much larger facility that could be a national draw.
Sales said town officials agreed such a complex could be an economic boon for the town and Grand Valley. It’s estimated such a facility could bring in 50,000 shooters a year.
"Palisade is famous for its peaches and its wine and the rest of its agriculture," he said. "That already brings people. The time of the year that we suffer is in the wintertime. A lot of people don’t realize that our wineries are open all year long."
Sales thinks having a range of this size just two miles away would attract people year round and increase business.
The Department of Local Affairs gave Palisade a $2 million grant through its severance tax program to purchase the land for the site. Parks and wildlife gave the town $1 million to match those funds.
JT Romatzke, the Grand Junction area wildlife manager for CPW, said the agency is working with the town to buy the 2,000-acre Cameo parcel.
Romatzke said the complex they envision there could be one of the biggest shooting ranges in the country.
"You know opportunities come around only once in a while," he said. "And, folks around the United States that have worked to develop shooting ranges would all probably tell you...that identifying a site with the characteristics and the social tolerance and partnerships is a huge, huge burden."
Romatzke said a decade ago, parks and wildlife tried to find a site for something like this on the Front Range, but that didn’t workout.
Sales thinks such a facility would be a good match for the Western Slope.
"Shooting and hunting is still a lifestyle and culture of western Colorado and this fits the culture of western Colorado very well," he said.
CPW officials said the proposed range would offer a variety of target shooting, archery, hunter safety courses and outdoor education opportunities.
The project wouldn't happen overnight, though. The range could cost up to $20 million to build and take up to 10 years to complete.
Granat hopes the project comes to fruition. He’d like to see the area receive an economic boost and have a safe, clean place to shoot.
He also thinks it’s a good match for a shooting range because it’s not near homes, it’s easy to access off I-70 and the mountainous landscape is pleasing to look at.
"People are going to come here to recreate," said Granat. "Recreation is one of the fastest growing economic engines in the state and this is an ideal spot to do it."