4-H air gun program needs a home | CraigDailyPress.com

4-H air gun program needs a home

After athletes reach the pinnacle in their sport by winning a national or world title it is common to see them say, “I’m going to Disney World.”

After winning a national championship in air pistol shooting Craig’s Zach Pearson request was a bit simpler.

“It would be nice if we could have a consistent place to shoot in Craig,” he said.

“It would be a big plus for the program,” added Jacob Pearson who finished fifth overall at nationals.

During the finals months of preparation for the 4-H National Shooting Sports Invitational, Zach and Jacob Pearson practiced in a friend’s garage.

The local air pistol program has been without a facility for a little less than a year now.

“We have the kids, the equipment, the coaches, the knowledge and the desire to have a great program,” coach Laura Tyler said. “We’ve got everything except a way to make money and/or a facility.”

The program flourished when it was in the Centennial Mall from 2002 to 2003. That’s when the Pearsons started to develop their championship ways and Tyler had the opportunity to introduce the sport to a number of rookies.

“It was a solid program and the mall bent over backwards to have us,” Tyler said.

The mall was charging only for utilities, but the understanding was that if a business wanted to come in, it had priority.

A business came in and the range was relocated to the soon-to-be Boys and Girls Club of Craig building during the winter of 2003-04. Having practice at the Club required setting up and taking down the range every practice.

“It was adding and hour-and-a-half for a coach,” Tyler said.

The range then moved to the former Craig Furniture store last year but had to relocate once the plans for Homemakers were finalized. Since July of 2004 the shooters have been homeless.

“We spent the last of our grant money on the Craig Furniture building cleaning it up and getting it ready,” Tyler said. “But business is business and we had to leave.”

A year later the lack of a facility is starting to affect the program. “The program is dwindling in its numbers,” 4-H coach and leader Jody Lee said. “Hopefully, with the publicity of the Pearsons’ success it will help bring interest back, but we need somewhere to be.”

Lee’s children are a part of the program. They’re learning in their dad’s shop at work.

“Right now the program is dead in the water,” Lee said. “We’ve had no new leads for a while.”

Lee said the closest ranges are in Grand Junction and Rawlins and that Hayden shooters use the Routt County Fairgrounds Pavilion, but they share it with other 4-H programs.

The program’s coaches know exactly what they need. They have floor plans for a dream facility. The plans are to accommodate nine shooters with a room for gun storage, a classroom and an office area. The space is 70-feet long and 40-feet wide.

“As a non-profit, it’s hard for us just to find the funds to rent a place,” Lee said.

To find such a facility “it’s going to take an act of kindness,” Tyler said.

Zach didn’t think the shooters he defeated at the nationals are without a facility. “My guess is all the other kids have somewhere to shoot,” he said.

Tyler, a champion shooter herself, wants the program to continue because she believes it presents an opportunity for some to excel who might not excel in other activities.

“You don’t have to be the biggest or strongest,” she said. “It’s a way for them to learn life skills like goal setting and focusing on a competition. I don’t know how many more times I can move. I’m almost ready to fold up my tent.”

For information on the shooting program or to offer help, call Tyler at 824-5148.

To reach David Pressgrove, call 824-7031, ext. 13, or e-mail dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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