Shooting enthusiasts in Maricopa and Pinal County will soon be able to hone their skills at a new facility.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is expected to complete its buildout of the Box Canyon Shooting Sports site in August.
The 68-acre facility is located within the Box Canyon Recreation Area, a semi-developed 1,072-acre site about 10 miles west of town that is already popular as an informal range. The site has good proximity to the City of Maricopa, with the entrance to the new facility about 1,000 feet west of North Hidden Valley Road.
The site is one of five being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Box Canyon is the only Pinal County location. The others are in Maricopa County: Baldy Mountain, Saddleback Mountain, Church Camp Road and Narramore Road.
The Box Canyon site is familiar to local shooters, according to Mariela Castaneda, public affairs officer for the BLM’s Phoenix District. She said it has been an informal shooting site for Pinal County shooters for years.
“A couple years ago when we were scoping for the project this was a site that was identified by the public,” she said. “It was already known as a popular shooting site, and we thought it would be a good site to have more management of that area.”
The new facility will feature the following amenities:
- Three steel targets
- One steel target frame
- Three 25-, two 50- and two 100-yard shooting lanes
- One 200- and one 300-yard shooting lane
- Three primary backstop and side containment berms of native material with 6-inch clay liner and secondary backstops
- Five 30-foot-wide shooting platforms
- Sporting clay/skeet shooting area
- 20-foot-wide graded access roads with gravel parking area with handicap spaces
- Two vault restrooms
- Two 12-foot-wide pedestrian crossings
- Target area containment basins (3-foot wide) with 6-inch clay liner
“There will be infrastructure at the site including berms, backstops and targets,” said Castaneda. “We’ll have set targets that will be maintained by BLM and plenty of places for all types of shooting. That will include lanes with different lengths including 100 yards and 200 yards, so we’ll have places for all different types of firearms.”
In addition to the defined shooting platforms, lanes and natural and man-made backstops, there will be an adjacent Hazardous Exclusion Area of about 184 acres that will be defined by about 2.4 miles of 4-strand, wildlife-friendly perimeter fencing. This barrier is designed to keep hikers and others enjoying outdoor recreation away from the shooting range.
The facility will improve the experience for shooters who have been using the area for years, according to the BLM’s final environmental impact assessment issued in January 2020.
Kent Taylor, the director of Open Space and Trails for Pinal County, said the location of the site, surrounded by hills, is ideal for a shooting facility.
“That’s one of reasons it has been a historical shooting area – it has the topography,” he said. “It has the backdrop with the hills to keep the shooters in one area and keep the rounds from straying outside the area. There are a lot of similar places around the state (where informal shooting sites crop up) because it provides a safe place to shoot.”
Taylor added that the Hazardous Exclusion Area provides an additional layer of safety that should put outdoor lovers at ease.
“We have their safety zone in addition to the safety measure included at the facility, and that extends well over the ridgeline to the west and also to the ridges to the north and south that are smaller, so they have done everything they can to prevent any kind of accidents,” Taylor said.
Also, according to Castaneda, the firing direction of each lane was taken into consideration when planning the facility for additional safety. The capacity of firearms allowed at the site along with distance of the lanes and use of higher caliber weapons were also considered.
“We don’t have specific caliber limit,” she said. “There will be guidelines that apply for each specific site, along with the types of targets that can be brought out there.”
The range will not sell targets, ammo, food or other items but folks can bring in their own materials as long as they meet requirements.
“We could even have a range master,” she added. “Each site will have a monitoring plan as well that can make recommendations on enforcement and other issues.”
There will be no other recreational activities permitted in the area, but with its longtime use as a shooting area, the impact will be negligible according to the BLM environmental report.
HEAVY USE PREDICTED
That blends well with what Pinal County has planned for the area, which was initially included in the county’s master plan for the Palo Verde Regional Park.
“Our uses will be segregated from (the shooting facility) for safety,” Taylor said. “We have to be outside the safety zone for our activities, which will be north of there. We’ll have a main trailhead with camping and we are also looking at possibly having an archery site on other side of the Palo Verde Hills.
The land to the south, east and northeast of the facility is privately-owned with low-density residential development and agricultural fields. All land within a mile to the west of the site is undeveloped and the terrain provides secondary backstops that will further attenuate the shooting noises, said the BLM report.
The study said the local shooting sports community would achieve long-term benefits from having access to such developed recreational shooting sites where users would not be excluded based on memberships or clubs.
The study projects that the Box Canyon facility will be see fairly heavy traffic most of the year, with an estimated average of 50 cars and peak of 100 cars on weekends in spring, fall and winter. Those numbers are expected to drop to 5 and 15 cars, respectively, in the summer:
Taylor said he believe the facility will be heavily used.
“We heard during our planning process that the need was definitely there for a recreational shooting facility,” he said. “Most of the people who provided input said it was needed in the area and BLM developing the site is a positive thing.
“Our belief is that it needs to be managed from a safety point of view,” he added. “Dispersed recreational shooting needs to be managed. Organized shooting lanes will make it safer if people stay within the identified parameters, but you don’t want to have people firing long guns on the pistol range.”