July 30, 2008
BLUE TRAIL SHOOTING RANGE
By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst
You asked why some people are apparently trying to close the Blue Trail Shooting Range in Wallingford.
Several Durham residents who live near the Blue Trail Shooting Range have complained that bullets from the range have struck their homes. The on-line publication MyRecordJournal reports that there have been three reported stray bullet incidents on Tri-Mountain Road and one on Catherine Drive in the past year. One person has sued the range, alleging it has damaged his property and created a risk of serious physical injury and emotional distress.
In May, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) closed a state park and hiking trail after bullets were found on state land across from the range. DEP re-opened the park and trail after the range voluntarily closed its 200-yard range, closed them again when additional bullet strikes were found, and re-opened them again when Blue Trail closed additional ranges.
A lawyer for the range has told a public meeting that it has improved the range's safety, and that it is unlikely the range was the source of the bullets that struck the homes. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is investigating the matter.
DEP PARK AND TRAIL CLOSURE
On May 21, 2008, DEP announced it had closed Tri-Mountain State Park and a portion of the Mattabesett Trail after bullets were found on state land across from the Blue Trail shooting range. DEP said it took the action as a precaution while it worked with the shooting range to ensure public safety. Two days later the department announced it had re-opened the park and trail after Blue Trail agreed to close its 200-yard shooting range.
DEP re-closed the park and trail on May 27 after new bullet strikes were found in the area, re-opening them on May 30 when the range agreed to shut down its 100-yard and 200-yard ranges for seven days and review possible safety improvements. DEP and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association also placed signs in the park and along the trail notifying visitors of the range's presence. DEP also noted that DPS is investigating the matter.
Durham resident Pasquale DiNatale filed suit in New Haven Superior Court on June 4, 2008 seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against the range, claiming it has damaged his property and created a risk of serious physical injury and emotional distress. The Judicial Branch's link to the case is at: http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/DispDetail.asp?DocNum=NNH-CV-08-4031580-S.
According to MyRecordJournal.com, an on-line site of the Meriden Record-Journal, DiNatale filed the lawsuit on the same day an attorney for Blue Trail announced it had improved safety by enlarging wooden baffles at its 100-yard range, and that it also would increase the height of the berm that serves as that range's backstop.
According to newspaper accounts (attached), about 100 people attended a July 22, 2008 Durham town meeting held to update residents on the situation.
The Hartford Courant reported that Blue Trail attorney Martha Dean told the audience that it was unlikely that shooters at the range were the source of the stray bullets, a claim DiNatale challenged at the meeting. Dean also said Blue Trail would reopen its 100-yard range because of the improvements it had made in safety, range security, and record keeping. She said there were no plans to re-open the 200-yard range.
STATE POLICE INVESTIGATION
State Police Major Christopher Arciero says state police are “conducting several investigations” to determine if the bullets that allegedly struck the homes came from someone shooting at the Blue Trail range. Arciero says police are using the personnel and resources of the Central District Major Crime Squad, DPS Forensic Lab, and DPS Accident Reconstruction Unit. The Hartford Courant has reported that state police have test-fired rifles obtained voluntarily from people who shot at the range in May (“Blue Trail Range Plans to Reopen 3 Firing Lanes,” Hartford Courant, July 23, 2008).
According to Arciero, this is not the first time Durham residents have raised concerns about stray bullets from Blue Trail. He said an extensive police investigation in 1999 failed to directly link the bullets to the firing range. As of July 28, 2008, Arciero said there was no “direct nexus” between the bullets and Blue Trail range. He said he did not know when the investigation will conclude.
The Blue Trail shooting range website is at: http://www.bluetrailrange.com/. A Blue Trail website devoted to the closure issue from its perspective can be found at: http://www.savebluetrailrange.org/.