Bill Wenman (left) received the first big donation toward the purchase of the Casino Gun Range earlier this year when Vern Blair gave $1,000 on behalf of his deceased brother Don Blair, an active user of the range.(Submitted photo)

Association on track to purchase Casino Gun Range

The business plan is starting to take shape

Going from warden to owner of the Casino Gun Range is the end goal of a business plan that is starting to take shape.

Previous: Trail Wildlife Association aims for gun range purchase

Previous: Casino Gun Range a hot topic at AGM

Range manager Bill Wenman says a Teck representative made a site visit a few weeks ago, and provided guidelines in terms of writing a proposal for the company to consider.

“I would say I am cautiously optimistic,” Wenman told the Trail Times. “I have done business plans before and Teck has said to give them the concept first, so it’s a great working start.”

The Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) took the lead in talks with Teck over buying the company’s land, rather than continuing to lease it, after three branches of range memberships reached a consensus earlier this year.

The topic surfaced again this weekend when a sanctioned shooting competition at the Casino Gun Range drew more than 50 people from all over B.C. to this region.

The IPSC event (International Practical Shooting Confederation of Canada) is the only one of its kind in the West Kootenay. The turnout of competitors, some coming from as far as Vancouver Island, illustrates how the gun range is good for tourism, and shows how it can fit in as a long-term economic driver, Wenman pointed out.

“This is more proof of that,” he said. “(Like the golf courses), it does bring in tourism, but it also increases their willingness to stay.

“I’ve talked with three people who were looking at the Okanagan (to re-locate) … but they like the swimming, the skiing and they like the golf courses that we have. When they saw the gun range, they said that made their final decision to stay here.”

This latest competition is also an example of why the memberships chose to join forces to buy the land from Teck over continuing an annual lease of $150.

The intent of the Trail Wildlife Association, West Kootenay Marksmen, and West Kootenay Archers, is to financially invest in the range as a landowner, not as a leasee, and preserve its use for perpetuity.

“The reason we want to purchase the range is that we want to do capital improvements,” Wenman said. “So that we can increase the capacity of the usage.”

While he declined to give a dollar-value of what the offer might be, Wenman did outline options of paying for the land.

“One idea would be for Teck to gift it to us,” he said.

“Another option is where we would create a mortgage between us and Teck, then pay off the mortgage from the price of the land over many years.”

A legacy loan from Columbia Basin Trust is another idea Wenman suggested, whereby the money would be borrowed at a low interest, or zero interest rate, over many years.

“Then, another option is outright buying it at a higher pace, which would mean having to substantially increase the fees to use the range,” he said. “But I would say 20 to 30 per cent would not be able to afford that, and then if the cost becomes prohibitive the problem is they’ll go target or bow shooting somewhere out in the wild where it’s not as safe,” he added.

“So there has to be that fine balance.”

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