The shooting club’s future is in jeopardy | Media Pyro


HAYDEN — Generations of North Idahoans have known the thrill of holding a shotgun, shouldering the stock as they raise the barrel, squeeze the trigger, and shoot a clay target that flies like a dove or grouse.

For decades, they did just that at the Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club near the Coeur d’Alene Airport in Hayden. A small non-profit incorporated in 1946 in Hayden Lake, the club moved to its location on Miles Avenue in 1965.

Now a dispute over the club’s annual rent could force it to close permanently.

“We have to keep the club going,” said Ed Wagner, Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club President. “It is a good social service. There are always new people coming in and they leave with smiles on their faces. The whole point of the club is to provide that. “

In late October, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the club’s landlord, Coeur d’Alene Airport, of an anonymous complaint.

The complaint alleges that Kootenay County, which owns and operates the airport, violated its federal grant guarantees by allowing the Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club to operate at below-market land rents.

When airport owners, sponsors or other organizations receive funds from FAA-administered financial assistance programs, they must agree to certain obligations called assurances.

Under its current lease with the airport, which is up for renewal in April, the club pays $1,057 a year to rent 36 acres of land. 5, 22, 24 and 25 of the grant assurances are alleged to have been leased by the club.

The lease from 2021 is in dispute.

Airport Director Steven Kjergaard told commissioners last April that the club should move to paying market rates to rent space. He also indicated that the club would have an adverse effect on the sale of other parcels.

“I want this airport from a rental property, which doesn’t align with the goals of the airport — to run an airport,” he said.

The airport’s non-aeronautical rental rate is 0.567 cents per square foot per year. That means the market value of the land must be more than $889,000.

However, the soil is contaminated from lead and toxic substances in the clay targets that were commonly used in the past. Kjergaard said this would cut the value of the land in half. He estimated the market value of the land to be over $400,000 a year.

Rents for the airport’s proposed new lease in January 2022 would start at $120,000 a year and increase by $40,000 each year for a decade, reaching $480,000.

Wagner said it would be impossible to pay those rates. Especially with the rising costs of targets and other materials, the club is barely making it.

“We need to raise our range fees, we need to raise our membership dues,” he said. “We don’t want to make a huge profit because that means our members are paying too much.”

The club also has no money to move.

“If someone gives us a property, we still can’t develop it and raise another range,” he said.

It’s unclear how the complaint to the FAA will ultimately affect the club and the airport.

“There are significant things to come as a result,” Kjergaard said.

In a worst-case scenario, he said, the FAA could reduce or remove all grant funding for the airport for six years as a penalty for violating grant assurances.

Generally, the way to remedy a violation for a submarket rent is to bring the lease up to market rate, Kjergaard said.

“The FAA likes to see progress,” he said. “It doesn’t automatically have to go there. But it needs to move in that direction. “

The airport has until November 28 to respond to the allegations.

Many of the visitors to the Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club are retirees.

“There’s a lot of gray hair,” Mike Seydlix said. He is one of a group of retirees who gather at the club four times a week – every day it is open.

But sport shooting is also a young man’s game. Around 40 youngsters train at the club in local teams.

Among them is 15-year-old Caleb Meji, a member of the Coeur d’Alene High School skeet and trap team. For him, shooting is meditative and fun.

“It’s a way to take your mind off everything else,” he said.

His sister, Hailey, 13, went shooting for the first time Friday with her dad and brother. She beamed every time she broke through the clay target.

“If we’re shooting birds, we’re not hungry,” her father, Nick, said with a laugh. He started shooting from the late 90s and now shares the hobby with his children. “She hit some.”

The Coeur d’Alene High School team is one of three local youth teams that train at the club. There are no other facilities within a reasonable distance that teams can use.

“Our sport would be almost impossible without it,” said Landon Lacaria, 16, of the CHS team.

Regardless of the opinions of the airport director or the FAA, the Kootenai County commissioners will have the final say on the club’s lease.

“They’ve had a really long, long, long break,” Commissioner Bill Brooks said. “When you get very technical about it, you don’t have to give some people breaks on their rent.”

Make no mistake, Brooks said — he’s not anti-gun. In fact, he was one of the top 30 skeet instructors in the world and could not shoot until his health deteriorated.

“There is nothing like it,” he said. “It’s like playing chess. Shooting skeet is about 98% mental.

Brooks was a member of the Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club for many years. He says he spent more time shooting there than most.

“I’m very pro skeet club,” he said. “But at the same time, people at the skeet club have to be realistic.”

When it comes to rent, there are two camps: those who believe it’s unfair for the county to effectively subsidize a private club, and those who believe it’s appropriate because of the club’s nonprofit status and long history.

“An argument can be made both ways,” Brooks said. “But honestly, the best solution is for them to find another home and we give them plenty of time to do that. Meanwhile, they pay a rate closer to market value, even if it’s over 10 years.

He believes the club has resisted the idea of ​​any increases or changes, making it difficult to broker a compromise.

“I’m very sympathetic, but you have to have two parties willing to find a solution,” he said. “The solution is not a skeet club putting its hand in the county’s pocket.”

Commissioner Leslie Duncan believes the club will benefit the community. The club endorsed her candidacy when she ran for re-election this year.

She said it’s troubling that the FAA complaint is anonymous.

“The land that the club sits on has never been used for aeronautical purposes, and I’m not sure how it came to be within the scope of the airport,” Duncan said. “It’s been a great neighbor to the airport for so many years.”

She indicated to The Press that she has a plan that could save the club, but that it needs legal review before submitting it to the other commissioners.

Now, Duncan’s plan is under wraps.

Although there is a difference of opinion in the board on the issue, the balance may change with the selection of the new commissioner.

The Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club also endorsed Bruce Mattere in the District 2 commissioner race. Matare, who ran unopposed in the general election, is set to join the board in January.

“Why would a mysterious person complain about the lease of land covered with lead shot?” Matare told the media via e-mail. “The complaint is questionable because any reasonable person would know that the county could only charge more if it spent millions on environmental remediation to remove the lead.”

Under the current lease, the club is responsible for environmental cleanup. Wagner said it would cost $2 million to $3 million to repair the ground — funds the club doesn’t have and never will.

Local residents aren’t the only ones benefiting from the club. People travel from all over the area to shoot, including Gene Lombardo. He drives from Moscow twice a week, about 200 miles round trip.

“It’s the only place to shoot skeet,” he said Friday after coming out of the cold and back into the warmth of the clubhouse. Then he laughed. “They’re all older than me, so they make me look younger.”

Others come from Spokane and further afield.

Seydliks said he decided to move from Alaska to North Idaho after retiring in 2008 because of his passion for shooting.

“I looked all over the West to see where I wanted to retire,” he said. “I chose here because of this place.”

Over the decades, thousands of shooters have come through the Coeur d’Alene Skeet and Trap Club.

Seidlis said the club makes the sport accessible to people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds — people who may no longer be able to participate or pass down a love of sport shooting to their families if the club closes.

“It’s one of the vestiges of traditional and venerable activities,” he said.





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