After extensive, internal staff discussions and weeks of listening to public comments, including comments expressed during two meetings in Basalt with more than 400 people in attendance, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will reopen the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range to the public Sept. 15.

Beginning Saturday, the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range hours will be 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, until further notice.

The range closed after two individuals using prohibited incendiary tracer ammunition allegedly started the nearly 13,000-acre Lake Christine Fire the evening of July 2. Both suspects are facing felony arson charges.

In preparation for reopening, CPW technicians are in the process of implementing several upgrades at the range, including the installation of fire extinguishers, improvements to the backstop and the permanent removal of vegetation and brush. CPW staff are working closely with the local fire district to conduct a site tour and review all fire mitigation and prevention work performed to date to make sure the range is safe to open. In addition, the agency is working with the Roaring Fork Valley Sportsmen’s Association to enlist Range Safety Officers who will help monitor the range during hours of operation. CPW plans additional upgrades in the near future, many derived from input received from the public at the meetings and suggestions from range users.

In addition, NW Regional Manager JT Romatzke says CPW will convene a steering committee to continue looking for long term options and solutions, and make more permanent decisions in approximately 6 months.

“We recognize the concern reopening brings for some, but my decision to reopen the range comes with the consideration for what’s happened and our path forward. When the facts are considered, I believe this is the right thing to do,” said Romatzke. “The public needs safe, structured ranges where they can use firearms and CPW will respond to that need in a responsible manner.”

Romatzke says public comments received by CPW were an important part of the decision making process; however, he took a variety of additional factors into consideration before concluding the range is safe and ready to reopen, including the overall history of the range. He says the range has been in the same location for approximately 70 years and used by several thousand recreational shooters with no incidents until 2012. That year, a two-acre fire burned a portion of the area above the range. An investigation by the Eagle County Sheriff’s office indicated a discharged round may have caused the fire. Upon additional examination, CPW officials believe the fire may have instead been caused by a discarded, lit cigarette.