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City closing Eagle Creek gun range to public

March 17, 2016

The city of Indianapolis is closing a gun range to the public after terminating the contract of its private operator earlier this month.

Built as a police training facility, the Eagle Creek Pistol Range had been open to the public part time for the last 35 years.

Parks and Recreation Department officials said this week that they don't plan to reopen the gun range due to falling attendance and financial constraints, according to The Indianapolis Star. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will still use it for training exercises.

"It's strictly an economic decision," said Linda Broadfoot, director of Parks and Recreation. "We have seen usage go down dramatically over the past few years, and I couldn't tell you why that is."

Guy Relford, the range's private operator, is critical of how the city is handling the issue, saying he intended to keep the facility open through the end of his contract in March 2017 despite falling revenue.

"I'm disappointed, because the range has been there a long, long time," said Relford, an attorney who has sued communities for violating an Indiana law that bars local gun regulation. "And, yes, revenues were down, but we had hundreds and hundreds of people going through there that had been going there a long time."

Relford said he asked the city to help with the costs of an insurance policy required by the city, because other ranges require lower liability thresholds. After that, he said, the city sent him a letter voiding the contract.

City officials insist they tried to work with him to keep the facility open under the existing contract, without an additional public subsidy, but that he wasn't forthcoming with required documents. He disputes the allegation.

Recent proliferation of private gun ranges caused attendance to plummet in recent years. According to figures provided by the city, when Relford took over from the city in 2012, 5,150 people visited the range. In 2015, the range had just 793 visitors.

The city will have to find a suitable outdoor public amenity to replace the gun range in order to comply with federal park grant restrictions that say anything it pays for must be used for outdoor public recreation.

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