Gun range vs. nature on Chicago's Southeast Side

January 6, 2012

(Flickr/Wilsonious)
The Hegewisch Marsh is located next to the proposed site of the shooting range.

A controversial outdoor shooting range next to a nature reserve is one step closer to being approved. Last week the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District voted the Southeast Side gun range through by a 5-4 vote. Approval now goes to city government, where it already has broad support.

Chicago Police want to build the shooting range for training purposes and the area they've chosen is attractive because it's not highly populated.

But Peggy Salazar with the Southeast Environmental Task Force called the proposed location "ludicrous." That's because it's next to what she calls significant wetlands where endangered birds have been spotted, and where people are supposed to commune with nature.

"For them to locate noise, even if it's barely audible - it's audible! And that's what we're trying to escape. We're trying to make this an oasis, an escape from the city's the hustle and bustle," Salazar said.

The shooting range would be within the Millenium Reserve, an area set to become the biggest urban park in the lower 48 states. Salazar doubted the gun range would be approved in any other area of the city.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel backs both the park and gun range, and in a news conference Friday, he said he doesn't see the two different uses of the land as being contradictory.

"This was an agreement that I think is an appropriate agreement between the state, city and all the parties to allow the police to do what they need to do in that sense of the gun range there," Emanuel said. 

To that, Salazar said her organization is not opposed to gun ranges and the need for them, but that it's "simply the wrong location."