May 8, 2012
EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This news release has been updated with the rifle range reopening date. The Wautoma rifle range will reopen at 8 a.m., June 23, 2012.
WAUTOMA, Wis. -- What began as an idea is turning into reality at a rifle range near Wautoma in Waushara County. The original range, built on state property in the 1960s, was becoming increasingly unsafe due to its layout.
"The berms between the shooting lanes were very, very low," said Paul Samerdyke, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "People walking up to the range had to come through a wooded area, which led them right up against the range itself."
This aerial photo shows berms being constructed at the new Wautoma rifle range.
When discussions began about renovating the range, Operating Engineers Local 139 based in Coloma stepped forward, making a significant donation of time and resources toward the project. About 25 students and their trainers began by designing a layout for the new range and within a day, dug a sample on their own property for DNR staff to see.
Then the heavy machinery arrived on site, 16 pieces to be exact, ready to move sand and top soil from the property into four separate range lengths: 50 feet for handguns and 50, 100 and 200 yards for shotguns and rifle shooting.
"The new design makes it significantly safer for everyone enjoying the range," Samerdyke said.
"There are 25 foot high backstop berms for the shooting. There are 14 foot high berms between each shooting range so now there will be no stray bullets," explained Dan Sperberg of Operating Engineers Local 139, "The old road went through wetlands. We reclaimed that land by taking the road out and restoring it to its natural state."
The next best thing to the cooperative effort is the funding. OE 139 spent approximately $2,400 a day in fuel and did the work free of charge. Gravel to pave the new road and walkways came from wildlife and sharecrop funds that are allocated for infrastructure use. DNR is currently seeking donations to cover the costs of grass seed.
In addition, the Wautoma High School shop class is building a handicapped bench for the facility. DNR is looking at restoring some of the benches, which were previously there, while prison officials in Redgranite contacted the agency about building picnic tables and benches as well.
The Wautoma rifle range will reopen at 8 a.m., June 23, 2012. The range is located on County Highway C west out of Wautoma about two miles. Turn north onto Bicentennial Road. The range is after the second 90 degree turn. GPS coordinates are 44.085264, -89.339980.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Samerdyke - 920-787-7428 or Trish Ossmann, DNR Northeast Region public affairs manager - 920-662-5122