The Wadena County Board of Commissioners gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow a multi-use shooting complex in Shell River Township.

With well over 100 people of all ages packing the small courtroom and upper hallway at the county courthouse, both in support and opposition to the shooting range, the board voted 5-0 to support the commission.

The land at the Huntersville Sportsmen's Park was donated to the Park Rapids Clay Dusters shooting team by R.D. Offutt Inc.

Darrin Hoverson and Robin Walsh, representing the Park Rapids shooting team, joined Planning and Zoning Director Deana Malone as she presented the findings of the commission to the board regarding the conditional use permit application (CUP).

Malone told the board a public hearing on the question was held March 15 in Wadena. The commission tabled the club's application at that time and adjourned. On March 21, the commission conducted a site visit after which the commission reconvened at the Wadena County Courthouse.

Opposition to the shooting range has been based, in part, to an objection to the noise of gunfire and, in part, to safety concerns. There is a horse camp and riding trails in the vicinity of the shooting range.

Malone told the board her staff was informed by a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) grant writer that shooting ranges are exempt from MPCA noise standards.

Wash told the board the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Park Rapids has agreed to move any trails close to the range so there will not be an issue. Walsh added the DNR told him they have no trouble with shot that falls on state land in the Huntersville State Forest because it is set up for timber management.

Hoverson pointed out to the board that the design of the shooting range was based on a National Rifle Association (NRA) source book.

"We are shooting directly to the north with a radius allowance and not to the west or the east," Hoverson said. "We believe our shot will be contained on the site."

Litigation of the matter is expected to continue.

The Park Rapids Clay Dusters has been participating against other schools in clay target competition for four years. The facility may eventually be used by shooters from Park Rapids, Nevis, Menahga and Sebeka. The location of the new site, three miles west of Huntersville on County Highway 18, is expected to accommodate all four schools.

The popularity of sporting clays shooting is considerable. More than 15,000 students from more than 400 Minnesota schools are expected to participate in clay target shooting this spring.

Following the board meeting, Park Rapids Clay Dusters Club Member Shawn Ohm offered his thoughts on why clay target shooting has gained such rapid popularity.

"You can't necessarily be in basketball or football or track, and this is a sport where all you do is shoot a gun; you don't need to be a splendid athlete to do that," Ohm said.