City and county leaders scrap years-long plan for firing range - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City and county leaders scrap years-long plan for firing range

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 CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Hamilton County and Chattanooga leaders are abandoning plans to build a new shooting range for training officers. This comes after years of planning, prepping and spending hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars on the project.      

The city and county agreed to partner to build a new firing range downtown, leaving the current training spot at Moccasin Bend and giving that land to the National Parks Service.  

The county and city each agreed to pitch in a million dollars to add on to a federal grant. For several years, law enforcement was adamant about making it happen, but now those plans are scrapped, which leaves some questioning why?

The plan to move the Hamilton County and City of Chattanooga firing range from the site at Moccasin Bend started in the early 2000's. Fast forward about a decade and leaders finally agreed on the location and price tag.

Last year, the city started work-- paying $250,000 to level the old can warehouse on East 12th Street and hire an architect to design an indoor range with more training possibilities.

"That began to erode as politics got involved," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.

Law enforcement says features kept getting cut one by one to save money until they finally said 'never mind.'

"It got to the point where it was quite a disillusionment to the officers to where we realized what we had was better than what we were going to get," Sheriff Hammond said.

Now they're hoping some of that earmarked money will be used to upgrade the existing range. But, they have to send that more than million dollar grant back to the feds.

"That is the right site and those repairs and upgrades can be done at a much lower cost to the taxpayer," Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said.

"We were just listening to what they were telling us they needed," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said.

Abandoning the plan does leave a loose end. The county and city had agreed to give the portion of Moccasin Bend land over to the National Parks Service once they moved out.

"Have been discussing for a long time the importance of that parcel as a strategic connection," Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park Superintendent Brad Bennett said.

The National Parks Service and Friends of Moccasin Bend hoped to increase tourism by connecting the Riverwalk to the park, and possibly adding a visitor center down the line.

"It is a disappointment but it's not something that can't be overcome perhaps," Friends of Moccasin Bend Interim Director Kay Parish said.

They also worry about all the noise and potential safety issues for visitors near the range. They say they'll keep the door open with local government and brief leaders on plans for land management.

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