WILTON — A long-term effort to develop a new 16-station shooting range at Wilton Fish and Game Club draws closer as members seek town permits.

The Planning Board recently scheduled a public hearing on the expansion for 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Academy Hill School cafeteria. The board will visit the range site at 4 p.m. Jan. 19.

Over 45 people, including club members, supporters and opponents, attended a board meeting last week but were asked to wait for the hearing to speak. Board members found the site review application complete pending the addition of dimensions of structures on the property.

The shooting range project started in 2013 when club members applied for a federal grant under the Pitman Robinson Act of 1938. Under the act, a federal tax on firearms and hunting gear is charged. Part of the tax on handguns and archery equipment is used for hunter education and target ranges.

The club was awarded nearly $70,000 to create a 50-yard range with 16 shooting stations for long rifles, pistols and archery, Arnold Borthwick said.

A horseshoe style berm will allow the safe use of the new range and the adjacent 100-yard shooting range already there. Shots will be fired into the berm, which is 28 feet wide at the bottom and tapers to 4 feet wide at the top. It will be 12 feet high.


Started in 1929 on 3.67 acres on Route 2,  the club purchased an adjoining 9.63 acres in 2011, Sharon Borthwick said.

The Borthwicks, club members, applied for the grant. A  grant match of about $25,000 needs to be raised by the club, she said. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is holding the grant funds for the club as long as it keeps working on the project.

Fundraising work stopped about two years ago when concerns over a significant vernal pool on the property developed.

After considerable work done with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the club has the DEP permit and now needs the Wilton permit to begin work July 1. Members hope to have the range in by late summer.

As part of the permit, a restriction was placed on the additional piece of land that it be kept as a forested, natural area, especially around the vernal pool. In the future, the club can develop a nature trail and post signs but no bark pathways, he said.

The vernal pool has been checked by two biologists on four occasions. The DEP requires the range to be at least 35 feet away from the pool and no work can be done during April, May or June because of the amphibian population.


Members of the club’s youth league are taught by NRA safe practices and compete around the state. They have traveled to Indiana and Camp Perry in Ohio. The new range will allow for competition to be held here, Borthwick said.

The project could be good for the whole area, he said.

The future nature trail could be used by schoolchildren and scouts, she said. Some events and times are open to the public.

The club has encountered opposition to the project because of the vernal pool and noise.  

The berm is expected to keep noise down, he said. Tests done in 2014 showed 67-70 decibels of noise from the range, while a truck passing by was 80 decibels and four cars registered about 75 decibels.

The range is for members only and no shooting is allowed before 9 a.m. and must stop by 7 p.m. or dusk, he said.

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