Four areas in Pinal and Maricopa counties are being scoped out by the federal government as possible sites for a recreational shooting sports pilot project. One is Box Canyon, which is already an informal shooting range on Hidden Valley Road and part of a proposed regional park.

Its status is causing a little confusion.

The new proposal, introduced by the Department of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management, makes no mention of Pinal County Open Space & Trails and its creation of Palo Verde Regional Park through Hidden Valley. That plan includes further developing the existing shooting range.

Kent Taylor, director of Open Space & Trails, was not given notice about the BLM plan until it was announced for public feedback. He is waiting to hear if his county department can be a “cooperating agency.”

The master plan for Palo Verde Regional Park, which is in its 2016 version, shows parkland running between State Route 238 to the north and Interstate 8 the south and between Hidden Valley Road to the east and the county line to the west. Several years in the making, the plan incorporates feedback from residents, who wanted only light management if any at all.

Areas were marked for hiking, horseback riding, camping and other outdoor recreation along with shooting. BLM was an important part of the creation of the proposed park.

The shooting range pilot project put forth by BLM this year, with cooperation from Arizona Game & Fish Department, proposes a “semi-developed site” with parking improvements, portable toilets and target structures. As stated in the proposal, “future development could include shade structures, permanent restrooms, overnight camping area, picnic tables and ‘projectile zone.’”

Kent and his advisory commission are hoping to evaluate the proposal and “how that impacts our future plan.”

“It’s unclear as to what level of management it will have,” he said.

The proposal may fold into the Palo Verde plan and enhance it, or it may ignore it or even conflict with it.

BLM sought public feedback on the scoping project through the month of June and held public meetings in Buckeye and Phoenix.

“We’re excited to learn from this pilot program to identify ways that we can provide greater recreational shooting opportunities while ensuring that other activities and public uses can continue to the greatest degree possible,” said Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, exercising the authority of the BLM director.

According to BLM Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas, the pilot program offers a framework for enhanced access to public lands for recreational shooting.

“We are seeking public input as we prepare an environmental assessment of the proposal,” he said.

The three other areas proposed for the pilot project are in Maricopa County – Saddleback Mountain, Church Camp Road and Narramore Road.

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

This map shows concepts of a shooting range in Box Canyon as proposed by Open Space & Trails’ Palo Verde Regional Park master plan.
This map shows concepts of a shooting range in Box Canyon as proposed by Bureau of Land Management’s pilot program.