Local Gun Range Under Fire

621
A massive, 36-acre site has been excavated on TriCounty Gun Club property over the past 15 plus years and the club plans to place ranges there when it is complete. (Josh Kulla/Tualatin Life)

Noise complaints are nothing new to the 6,000 member Tri-County Gun Club just west of Tualatin. 

The club is Oregon’s largest shooting range and covers some 235 acres of property in unincorporated Washington County between Tualatin and Sherwood. Established in 1940, the club has been taking measures for decades to mitigate the noise generated by the sportsmen and law enforcement officers who utilize the grounds. 

But as the population of both cities has grown over time, the issues surrounding noise have continued. 

Patricia Parsons lives in the Ibach neighborhood on the western edge of Tualatin. She claimed at recent city council meetings that a recent “explosion” of what she thought was gunfire was so loud that she reportedly feared an active shooter was on the loose nearby. She said she even phoned the police for help.   

It was not the first time, she said. Parsons has lived in Tualatin for nine years and before January 2020 the noise was not a big concern. But after the completion of SW 124th Avenue just west of her home, she noticed a big difference. 

“The sound has exacerbated greatly since they put through 124th,” she said. “They stripped away a tremendous amount of earth and stripped away a lot of natural sound insulation.”

Tri-County Gun Club Public Information Officer George Pitts, however, said that Parsons’ claims are overblown. 

“Three blocks from her house is the largest rock quarry in the state,” Pitts said. “And between that rock quarry and the gun club are two more active large rock quarries and they are talking about noise they can feel. Well, those are explosions from the quarries.” 

He noted that the Ibach neighborhood is also impacted by SW 124th traffic and ongoing construction, nearby industrial businesses and the WES train. 

“That’s not a legitimate noise complaint,” he said. “She’s up to something else.” 

Canby Police Officers are shown training at the TriCounty Gun Club. They are just a few of the estimated 3,500 law enforcement officers from throughout the Portland metro area, including federal agencies and the military, to do so. (Josh Kulla/Tualatin Life)

Pitts also pointed out that the club has spent millions of dollars over the decades on noise mitigation efforts and safety upgrades. These include construction of massive berms and concrete baffles around the various long- and short-distance ranges dotting the 235-acre property, as well as the long-running excavation of roughly 36 acres of land in the northwest corner of the site. The latter will host new pistol and rifle ranges when it is complete. Significantly, these new facilities will be roughly 80 feet below the former grade in an attempt to further muffle sound. 

“We have done so much work up there for noise abatement and the whole big project we’re building,” Pitts said. “The whole purpose is to reduce noise.” 

Parsons has also complained about the roughly 3,500 police officers, including those from Tualatin, who train at the Tri-County Gun Club each year. 

“Why are we, as citizens who paid for state of the art practice facilities in Hillsboro, Sherwood, Clackamas County and Multnomah County, why are our law enforcement practicing at a private range? That’s part of the problem.” 

Pitts said the club recently hosted Tualatin Police Chief Bill Steele and other city officials on a tour of the club’s facilities in order to see their efforts at noise dampening firsthand. 

“They have made a lot of changes out there and they’ve pumped in a lot of money to mitigate the sound coming out of there,” Steele said. “You’ve got noise issues that have occurred off and on over the years, but for us it’s not in the city of Tualatin, and they don’t fall under Tualatin municipal code.”  

Steele noted that Tualatin Police are not currently receiving significant amounts of calls on the issue from anyone else on this issue. 

Regardless, Parsons said she will continue to call police when she hears what she thinks is gunfire. She said noise from nearby quarries is clearly distinguishable from gunfire and added that quarries send out public notices before carrying out blasting. 

She added that it’s a matter that needs to be handled at the state level. Her primary goal is to eventually overturn Oregon Revised Statute 467.131, which grants shooting ranges an exemption from liability based on noise complaints. 

“I have no desire to put them (the club) out of business and I have nothing bad to say about them,” she said. “It’s the sound of gunfire in a community that is very troubling and should be troubling to everybody.” 

Parsons said local government is also responsible for helping to solve the issue because local police use the club. 

“I’d love for them to partner with the gun range and explore government resources to help them get there,” she said.

The Tualatin City Council has agreed to address the matter at an upcoming workshop that has yet to be scheduled.