Kathy Paradis, left, and Cheryl Wentworth stand in the back of Paradis’ home in North Berwick, about a half-mile from the Sanford Springvale Fish & Game Protective Association gun range. They’re among a group of residents worried about noise and safety after some homeowners reported bullets on their property. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

NORTH BERWICK — After Cheryl Wentworth moved to her neighborhood in 1975, she would occasionally hear shots from the nearby gun range and not think much of it.

But over the years, as the range changed ownership and membership increased, the gunfire grew louder and more frequent.

It’s especially loud on weekends and during warmer months, Wentworth said.

“There’s some guns that are so loud, I can feel the vibration in my body,” she said.

The range off Wentworth Road, surrounded by woods, is in Berwick, very close to the North Berwick line, and has been open since 1961. Over the past 19 years, more houses have been built and more people have begun using the range, which is open daily.

Local police and town officials have fielded periodic complaints, mostly about excessive noise, but sometimes about bullets that have hit buildings or been found in yards.


Now, a group of residents has come together to push for change.

“We can’t take it anymore. It’s boom, boom, boom and that’s all we hear seven days a week,” said Wendy Guptill, who lives on Randall Road, on the other side of the range from Wentworth.

Guptill said the noise is loud enough that she can’t enjoy sitting on her porch and had trouble resting when she had COVID-19.

Officials in Berwick say there is little they can do. The range managed by the Sanford-Springvale Fish & Game Protective Association is operating legally and safely, within the bounds of state law. They have no conclusive evidence, they say, that bullets found on residents’ property came from the range.

Lenny and Amanda Daigle say in November 2020, they returned home to find this hole in a trim board above the garage door of their North Berwick home and believe it was caused by a bullet that strayed from the neighboring Sanford Springvale Fish & Game Protective Association gun range. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Officials from both Berwick and North Berwick recently held a public meeting to hear from residents and get answers from the club. A club representative called reports of stray bullets “very concerning” and urged residents to report them to police, but said he does not believe they are coming from the range.

“We do hear your concerns, we really do. We’re not cold-hearted,” President Zack Roberge said at the Feb. 23 meeting. “We are trying to act on them, and we do take them very seriously.”


A safety coordinator from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is expected to inspect the range in the next few weeks, at the club’s request. The inspection will be based on the NRA’s safe shooting guidelines and the inspector will be able to offer advice, but cannot require that changes be made.

Members are also considering options for noise abatement and whether to change how they access the range and start logging who is at the range each day, steps officials from both towns have urged them to consider.


Many neighborhood residents own guns themselves or come from families of hunters. They say they’re not looking to take guns away from anyone or stop people from practicing safe shooting. Some would like to see the range moved to a more secluded location, while others would at least like it to reduce its hours.

“It has definitely outgrown the area and the area has outgrown the gun club. Now there really isn’t a place for it,” said Steve Guptill, who lives near the range. “You feel like you live in a war zone.”

Originally owned by the General Electric Employee Association, the range was sold in the early 2000s to the club, which has around 800 members and operates another range in Sanford. Berms on the ranges vary from 16 to 30 feet and are regularly maintained, according to the club.


The entrance gate to the Sanford Springvale Fish & Game Protective Association gun range in Berwick. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Berwick range is open from 8 a.m. to sunset and typically is used by five to 10 people on busy days, Roberge said in an interview. About 50 members have joined in the past five years as people look for safe places to shoot. With a shortage of affordable, undeveloped land in southern Maine, relocating or opening a new range would not be easy, he said.

Berwick Code Enforcement Officer Irish Griffith reviewed police reports and complaints and did a walk-through of the property before the February meeting. She said she did not identify any safety issues that would warrant the range being shut down and said the police chiefs in both towns told her “they felt this range was likely one of the safest in the area, although they both acknowledged noise complaints were another matter.”

State law exempts the decades-old range from new municipal noise ordinances. 

“I’m not allowed to shut them down based on noise,” Griffith said.

The town also can’t even require the range to add soundproofing.



Concerns about the gun range date back to at least 2004, when a group of residents sent the town a letter describing “extraordinarily loud and frightening sounds” during a daylong event at the gun range that “literally shook the homes and land we stood on in our own yards.”

A month later, range leaders informed members that all exploding devices would be banned at the facility, a rule that remains in effect. Last summer, the range pushed back its opening time from sunrise to 8 a.m. after residents complained about early morning shooting.

Residents on Randall Road, about a half-mile from the range, say they have heard and felt bullets whizzing past their heads and found bullets on their property.

Kathy Paradis says this hole in the siding on the back of her house is where a bullet hit, which she believes came from the Sanford Springvale Fish & Game Protective Association gun range about a half-mile away. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Kathy Paradis said that in 2006, she found a bullet in the vinyl siding about 12 feet up on the back of her house. She found another bullet in the driveway.

“The only logical place they could be coming from is the range. They’re not containing their bullets,” said Paradis, who has the house on Randall Road closest to the range.

On Nov. 11, 2020, Lenny and Amanda Daigle, who live across the street from Paradis, found a bullet in their driveway that took a chunk of molding out of their garage door. A police log noted that it appeared to be an errant round from the range, but police never determined exactly where it came from.


“You’re always wondering if there’s going to be another one,” Amanda Daigle said.

Last summer, another neighbor told police that her car window shattered and that she had found shell casings around the property.

North Berwick Police Chief Stephen Peasley said his department has received several complaints in the past 15 years about bullets hitting buildings on Randall Road, but cannot say for sure where the bullets came from.

“Some people ask if they came from the range. It came from the direction is all I can say,” he said.

Peasley said he also gets complaints about gunfire noise, but that is out of his jurisdiction.

“The bottom line is they are legal to operate,” he said. “I can’t just shut them down.”



At the public meeting, most residents focused on noise and whether it is safe to be in the wooded areas around the range.

Conor Guptill, who runs Hackmatack Farm adjacent to the range, said the area was quiet when he was a kid, but is now “unbelievably loud.” He said he worries about the families and children who use the walking trails behind his farm.

Roberge, from the range, said members take safety very seriously and believe the woods are safe.

“I walk out there all the time on my own and I have no concerns about being back there,” he said. “I cannot stress that enough.”

Roberge said he visited the Guptills and was surprised by the level of noise, but thinks there’s an echo.

“We’re trying to be good neighbors and acknowledge these concerns,” he said.

Wendy Cowan, a North Berwick selectwoman who lives on Randall Road, asked range members to understand that residents feel like they’re held hostage by the noise.

“I know right now there are no legal requirements for you to make any changes,” she said, “but I strongly urge you to hear what’s been said here and understand the level of distress this has caused for the residents who abut your property.”

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