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Coastal shooting range jittery seeing more walkers, skiers

The coastal flats behind the Rabbit Creek Shooting Park's high-powered rifle range isn't the ideal place to take a stroll in Anchorage.

But so far this winter, a lot of people have been spotted on those flats. That has the range manager, Steve Meyer, somewhat alarmed.

In his memory, no one has ever been hit by a bullet at the range. The range has occupied the same spot -- across the highway from Potter Marsh and surrounded by the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge -- since the 1950s, Meyer said.

Despite warning signs posted on the coastal flats and on the nearby state refuge trail, an individual or a group of people has been spotted walking, skiing or biking behind the shooting range backstops eight to 10 times since January, he said.

That's an unusual increase in people walking behind the range, he said.

While most of the bullets fired at the shooting park stay within the range, a stray or deflected bullet could escape, Meyer said.

More than 23,000 people used the shooting park in 2009, he said.

Imagine a shooter sneezing violently while pulling the trigger. That could send a bullet awry, Meyer said, noting that high-powered rifles can have a range of three miles.

It's not against the law to walk behind the shooting park; it causes a disruption for shooters during business hours, which run from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, this time of year. Anytime a person or an animal, like a moose, passes by, the shooting park staff orders a cease-fire over the loudspeaker.

The best thing for people trying to transit the area is to follow the maintained trail that winds through the coastal refuge and passes through the front parking lot of the shooting range, Meyer said.

State refuge biologist Ed Weiss said Friday that he is unaware of any group activities near the shooting range besides bird-watching and waterfowl hunting. Typically, waterfowl hunters would come to the flats very early in the morning and leave long before the park opens at 10 a.m.

Reach Elizabeth Bluemink at ebluemink@adn.com or 257-4317.

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK

ebluemink@adn.com

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