Debate Over Chabot Gun Range

As East Bay park staff examine questions about noise and pollution, it’s business as usual at the Chabot Gun Club.


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Photos by Pat Mazzera

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Jason Siegel wants to preserve the future of the Chabot Gun Club and has rallied gun enthusiasts to do so.

“I was born in San Francisco, and I’ve tried ranges all across the Bay Area,” the former Marine Corps veteran said. “Indoor ranges are nasty. And Chabot is just a nice range.”

Siegel is the initiator of a petition to keep the gun club open. There is a competing one to close it.

At the moment, the club, in a remote part of Anthony Chabot Regional Park, is operating under a one-year extension to a 25-year lease agreement signed in 1989. The agreement was set to expire Jan. 1, but an extension was granted in November. During the year, the East Bay Regional Park District will be completing several studies on noise generated from the gunfire as well as the extent to which lead from spent ammunition has seeped into the ground and contaminated nearby Lake Chabot.

“We gave a one-year extension because we figured we needed to do some studies on the environment and the noise,” park board director John Sutter said. “The cost of the studies is $700,000, and we’ve authorized that—and both the noise study and the pollution study will tell us what has to be done permanently. We won’t know that until the studies are complete.”

The club has been in continuous operation for about 50 years and was constructed in 1964-65. It currently has about 1,000 paid members, and, since it’s open to the public, serves an additional 45,000 people annually, according to Denis Staats, the club’s president. “This range wasn’t built last year,” Staats said. “We represent 65 of the park’s 115,000 acres.”

The range is nestled in a beautiful canyon deep within the park. It is accessible only by twisting Redwood Road and then a smooth, well maintained striped two-lane road for most of the way with sweeping views of gently rolling East Bay hills and the far off Bay before dead-ending into a simple parking lot. There sit the gun club structures, dated but neat, on the grounds with multiple shooting ranges, picnic tables, patio furniture, and other pleasant areas for congregating. The range offers classes, matches, and training opportunities for law enforcement agencies, too. The gunfire can be heard throughout the park.

The two major concerns—noise, and the possibility of pollution—have generated complaints from the community. Surrounding neighbors have sent letters to park district officials complaining about the noise generated from the gunfire. “We’ve had dozens of complaints from residents on the western side of the park,” said Mark Raggatz, the park district’s chief of park operations.

“It depends on the wind conditions and weather,” he said. “But the campground is about a mile away, and campers are often bothered. The gun range runs seven days a week, and campers generally aren’t expecting to hear gunfire on a Saturday morning. It’s away in the distance but it’s pretty constant.”

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