South Cushman Shooting Range reopens after renovations

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 8:28 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - At 8:00 a.m. Friday, August 26, the South Cushman Shooting Range in Fairbanks reopens to the public after months of closure for renovations.

Just in time for moose season, the only large caliber rifle range in Fairbanks will be available to the public after the site underwent renovations that began on May 16. Those renovations were designed to improve safety according to Borough Mayor Bryce Ward.

Included in the changes are ADA compliant sidewalks that connect the pistol and log gun ranges, ADA accessible paths for the long gun range, and three berms that separate the long gun ranges. These three berms include “two 8 foot side berms and a 10 foot center berm” according to Trisha Levasseur, an employee of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. In addition to the berms that increase safety from flying projectiles, the bullet stops at the end of the long gun range were increased in height as well.

In the parking lot, four ADA parking spots were made, and the facility now has a restroom on site.

Funding for the renovations primarily came from the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game which provided grant money for the range thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife restoration hunter access program. Those funds are acquired through firearm, ammunition and archery product sales tax. The project cost $1.3 million of which the grant paid 75%, while the borough put in the other 25%.

Despite all the renovations, some which the local shooting community did not favor, the biggest concern from facility users is the lack of a range safety officer. In response to those concerns, Levasseur said, “The borough has considered adding a range safety officer to this site and that is something we are continually trying to strategize and work through so that we can provide that for the public. If that is something that the public and community of Fairbanks really desires for the shooting range, we really urge them to bring those comments to the parks and recreation office.”

Much of that concern comes from the previous conditions that existed at the facility. Prior to the renovations, the range had been subject to unsafe firearms handling and improper target use resulting in layers of garbage being left on the range, while some facility users were shooting explosive Tannerite. Other safety issues that existed prior to the renovations include ineffective bullet stops, resulting in bullets “whizzing past the heads” of people boating on the river, as Mayor Ward described.

The new setup corrects some of those issues as a part of the additions. The ADA path on the range connects to several target setup areas, each 50 yards apart from each other, going as far back as 300 yards. The new center berm will also allow for facility users to rent out a part of the range by contacting the parks and recreation office to schedule a time and area.

When it came time to take the first post-renovation shots, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Nanook Rifle team was called up for the honor. Sophomore Gavin Barnick put two shots down range with his .22 caliber target rifle, officially throwing the first lead on the renovated range. After his ceremonial shots went out, Barnick spoke about the experience saying, “It feels good to shoot at an outdoors range in Alaska. I plan to come back and shoot, I think it’ll be fun.”

Prior to the reopening of the South Cushman Shooting Range, the only nearby facility available for large caliber rifles was out in Fox. However, shooting enthusiasts could still use small caliber rifles and most pistols at the ADF&G Indoor Shooting Range or at Tanana Valley Sportsman’s Association.

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