What’s changing with the Hampden-Sydney shooting range?

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hampden-Sydney College will be able to hold events at the school’s shooting range. That was the decision reached Tuesday, Sept. 13 by the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors.

During their September meeting, the board signed off on an amendment, giving permission for events at the college’s sporting clay and skeet shooting range facility.

This amendment comes over a year after the college received the original special use permit, which required the range to be monitored for a year to make sure it complied with all regulations. In that time, no violations occurred. This amendment is required to be revisited in one year.

“Things have gone really well,” said Scott Schmolesky, director of high adventure at Hampden-Sydney. “We know that this is something sensitive to adjacent landowners. We came in with our first permit, with parameters in place and we’ve stuck to those parameters. I’d say (we stuck) pretty close to the letter and (have been) good citizens to the surrounding neighbors.”

The plans for the permit

This amendment extends the operating hours to allow up to two weekend shootings per semester for the sporting clays team. The team currently holds practices on weekdays at 7128 Farmville Road. The amendment would allow for students, families, alumni and staff to take part in these events.

According to Schmolesky, these events would only take place on two Saturdays per semester for approximately five hours each day. Events will not take place on Sundays, in respect to the church down the street. Actual shooting would only take place during three of the five hours with 10 people shooting at the range at a time in one-hour increments. The school expects between 30 to 35 people maximum at these events. The range also only has five stands, so a maximum of five people can be up to shoot at a time.

Anyone who wants to participate in these events is required to sign up through the college and be prescreened to know their experience with shooting and gun safety. The college also does not provide shotguns used for these events. Those participating have to bring their own guns which will be inspected before use in the event.

“We basically vet them before they come out to shoot on the property, to make sure they have some experience,” Schmolesky said. “The safety range officer will be there the whole time monitoring those folks.”

Concerns raised about Hampden-Sydney plans

During the public hearing, three adjacent landowners called in with concerns about safety and the effects on the surrounding area that these additional parameters may cause.

Robert Loveless and his family sent in a letter to the Board addressing their many concerns over this amendment. When calling in for the public hearing, he posed his main question of why the college felt the need to expand to nonstudents.

According to Charles Horton, Hampden-Sydney’s sporting clays coach who also called into the meeting, activities on campus don’t need to be just for students. They can allow families and alumni to get involved. This provides a way for interested and involved parents to take part in a shooting event with their son, which many have expressed interest in doing.

Dolly Worthy also called in to express concerns about how this would affect her property. She also questioned the safety of those participating, as this amendment allows more people access to the shooting range.

“I just hate to lose my family farm, and if we keep on putting people on the farm with guns in their hands, someone’s gonna get hurt,” said Worthy. “I know you all have been good so far, but opening it to others, that worries me to no end. Who is gonna be taking care of the safety part in that?”

Range will be run by professionals

Horton answered that the range is run by a National Rifle Association (NRA) certified range safety officer. These officers have extensive training in firearms and make sure that everything is conducted safely. The team has gear and ammunition checks and is informed of everything that will be going on before any shooting takes place. According to the conditions on the special use permit, only shotguns with birdshot will be used for practices and shooting matches. This means there will be no rifles or heavy ammunition.

“This is professional grade instruction and we ensure that everything is done in the safest way possible,” said Horton. “Safety has always been and will continue to be paramount for the Hampden-Sydney College workplace.”

Horton also assured Worthy that this will not have any effect on her private property as this is only a change occurring on Hampden-Sydney’s private property. The Planning Commission came out and measured and the noise levels from the shotguns does not affect surrounding livestock.

Janet Loveless also presented concerns about the shared road folks will use to access the shooting range during these events.

Schmolesky assured her that there is no uncontrolled visitation and that people can be put in place to direct traffic if needed. Only during these two events per semester will extra people be able to come to shoot after signing up beforehand.

“The scope of this operation will be tiny compared to a real professional sporting clay range and, essentially, this is Hampden-Sydney trying to create strong bonds with the young gentlemen on our sporting clay team, a few alumni and some interested parents on rare occasions throughout the year,” said Horton.