Gun club in Vancouver Island provincial park sparks anger from nearby residents

A neighbourhood association in the Cowichan Valley wants a local gun out of a nearby provincial park.

Cowichan Fish and Game Association has operated in same location since 1960s

The Cowichan Fish and Game Association says it is dedicated to providing a safe and controlled environment for teaching gun handling and shooting skills. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A group in the Cowichan Valley on southern Vancouver Island wants a gun range located in the region's provincial park to find another home.

The Cowichan Fish and Game Association is a gun club and shooting range in the Cowichan River Provincial Park that operates with a park-use permit issued by  B.C. Parks.

But the Cowichan River Neighborhood Association is challenging B.C. Park's decision to issue the permit, which was granted 12 years ago, arguing the gun club is damaging the park.

They are concerned about the gun range's noise, environmental impact and effect on safety in the surrounding area.

The neighbourhood association says use of park land for shooting ranges is inconsistent with the Park Act, provincial park regulations, and the Cowichan River 2003 Park Purpose Statement and Zoning Plan.

'Unacceptable use'

"The shooting ranges should be phased out as soon as possible," said the association in a statement. "Shooting ranges are an unacceptable use of provincial parks and protected areas."

Don Cadden, regional director for B.C. Parks, said the permit was issued to the gun club in 2006 after B.C. Parks acquired the gun club's lease under the condition the club would be allowed to continue shooting range operations.

Cadden said B.C. Parks and the gun club are working together to alleviate people's concerns.

"For about the last two years my staff and I have been working closely with the [gun club] on ways to mitigate the noise," said Cadden.

"We've taken a few steps already and we're looking at additional ways."

Adjusting the firing schedule and limiting the number of days the range operates are two measures B.C. Parks and the gun club are considering, he said.

Gun range since 1960s

B.C. Parks hired an environmental consultant to measure the impact of lead from bullets on the ecosystem, said Cadden, but the results of the survey showed minimal levels of contamination.

"Some of the early conversations we've had indicate that the level of contamination at this point doesn't require us to shut down the range," said Cadden.

Cadden said the site has been a gun range since the 1960s and until April 2018, the RCMP had been using the gun range for target practice.

The RCMP has since agreed to no longer use the range at B.C. Parks' request.

The gun club also conducted a noise measurement operation, said Cadden, which showed the level of noise to be within acceptable guidelines.

With files from All Points West