Horse riders concerned with gun range plan at Stillwater lake

STILLWATER, Okla. - The sign at Lake Carl Blackwell reads 'No firearms allowed on the property' - but that could soon change.

The Oklahoma State University Board of Regents has approved of a shooting range on the lake, and some people have concerns.

“We come up here about five times a year because there are hundreds of miles of trails out here,” said James Kennedy.

The beautiful lake, filled with sounds of birds chirping and wind blowing, could soon be filled with the sound of gunfire.

“Horses and guns sometimes don't go good," Kennedy said. "My horse spooks pretty easy. It could be dangerous."

The lake is owned and operated by OSU, and bids would determine what company would maintain the range.

The Department of Wildlife Conservation applied for a grant to build the public range that would cut through many parts of the riding trails.

“It just depends how close they put it towards the trails, if they're going to section it off where the sound and issues like that, maybe even stray bullets,” Kennedy said.

In the application, the wildlife conservation said the location would make it more accessible for hunters and shooters, and it would provide safety and environmental responsible opportunities for shooters.

“I'm not against it," Kennedy said. "I just want to make sure it's controlled when people are out there shooting."

Many equestrians took their concerns to social media, saying they didn't know about the plans until they received notice of public comment.

OSU sent News 4 a response, saying, in part:

"An environmental assessment is currently under way for a proposed shooting range in Payne County that would provide a legal and safe location for the public to shoot. The facility would support youth shooting sports programs, which is 4-H’s fastest growing activity and is a fast growing FFA program. Oklahoma State University, as a land-grant institution, has a long history providing youth development through 4-H programs in Oklahoma."   

The environmental assessment includes a public comment period that ends April 20. Comments should be sent to Terry Bidwell at shootingsports376@gmail.com.

The environmental assessment should be completed within the next two-three months.