National Guard plans to clean up decades-old unexploded ordnance at Moffat County’s Bears Ears shooting range
February 13, 2019
Some two years after finding an unexploded hand grenade at Bears Ears Sportsman Club north of Craig, the U.S. Army National Guard is seeking to finish its cleanup of any possible unexploded ordinance this summer.
According to a legal notice published in the Craig Press Wednesday, Feb. 13, the National Guard is inviting the public to review its plans to remediate any munitions and explosives of concern at the shooting range along Moffat County Road 7.
"It's been a couple years since we were up there," said Joseph B. Rhodes, a National Guard restoration specialist. "There's eight acres left to do, and that's the plan, and then we'll be done."
Rhodes said crews did find an active hand grenade in 2016, but it was only a training device.
"There were a lot of non-dangerous pieces and parts," Rhodes said of the 2016 search. "I think we found one that could be considered explosive. But understand, these aren't actual grenades. These are practice grenades. They are explosive, but they have a very small explosive content and then a kind of white powder that goes off when they hit the ground, so you can see them, but they don't do any damage."
Any possible unexploded ordnance at Bear's Ears is likely the remnants of post-World War II training, said Craig Rummel, president of the Bears Ears Sportsman Club.
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"In the ’50s and ’60s, the range out there owned by the BLM was a National Guard shooting range," Rummel said. "Here and another place out in Sand Wash (Basin) that they used as a shooting range. They used small arms, and they used grenades, mortars, some of the smaller stuff. So, the Army National Guard is going around cleaning up these sights all around the country."
Rummel's sportsman club has held the Bears Ears shooting range lease since 1978, and it is open to the public, hence the need for a safe range.
"If we're setting new targets out, they just want to make sure we're safe," Rummel said.
If residents were to find possible unexploded ordnance at the range, Rhodes said they should leave it alone.
"We'd like to always caution people," Rhodes said. "If you see something that's unusual, don't mess with it. Back up and find someone responsible to look at it and see what it is. If there is something truly dangerous, then the sheriff's department will figure out how to get rid of it."
Moffat County Sheriff K.C. Hume said his office doesn't have explosives technicians, but he can get them here if needed.
"We would call the appropriate response authority," Hume said, adding a team would likely come from Fort Carson to deal with possible unexploded military ordnance.
Hume said at least one resident brought possible unexploded ordnance into the sheriff's office.
"That's something we want to tell folks not to do, because we really don't want it at the sheriff's office, either," Hume said.
If all goes as planned, Rhodes said cleanup should begin this summer.
"It depends on the bureaucratic process," Rhodes said. "We've got to get through this 30 days of public comment and depending on what those comments are, look at the plan and adjust it and then we actually go and do the work."
Rhodes said the government shutdown had virtually no effect on his work of cleaning up former U.S. Department of Defense training sites like the one outside Craig.
"The DOD was funded, and that's where this money comes from," Rhodes said.
Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.