Scan your lane no more

Kingston residents Sheldon Beddo scores Ian Beddo’s target after a timed precision shooting round.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Kingston residents Sheldon Beddo scores Ian Beddo’s target after a timed precision shooting round.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

t Kitsap Junior Marksman Club looking for a new home.

PORT GAMBLE —?Every Thursday night the Kitsap Junior Marksman Club fills with students eager to learn marksmanship under skillful instructor Mike Hastings.

Boys and girls ages 10 to 18 travel from areas as far as Belfair and Sequim to aim at bull’s eyes through a .22-caliber rifle scope and attune their shooter skill set.

However, at the end of this year, the weekly practice will stop and the gun range will be forced to shut down.

A lease from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, signed earlier this month by tribal representatives and Hastings, states the club must be evacuated Dec. 31.

The tribe, which bought the land from the Department of Natural Resources in 2004, is not interested in having a gun club on their land, said Doug Quade, chief executive officer for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe.

“We bought extra insurance and waived all leasing fees for the year,” he said. “Because they are a nonprofit and provide a good service we wanted to give them this year to find a new place to set up. If they were a for-profit organization we probably wouldn’t have agreed to lease at all. We don’t want to be the bad guy. We want to give them enough time to settle somewhere else.”

Ron Charles, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal chairman, said his main concern is liability. As present owners, if there were an accident the tribe would be held responsible in a lawsuit, he said.

Since the range opened in 1963, there have been no accidents said Hastings, who is still in shock that the gun club could be gone forever.

“It’s such an opportunity that will be lost, especially because kids get to go to college on it,” said Hastings, referring to the number of kids who have received scholarships, some full-ride, for marksmanship achievements. His own daughter, Marra, was one of those students.

Many students who pass through the club’s doors have aspirations that mirror Marra’s achievements, Hastings said, including multiple NCAA titles and eight All-American awards in her four years at Murray State University.

Hastings said he doesn’t want to disappoint the kids but feels stuck with nowhere to relocate and, because of the club’s nonprofit nature, no funding to do so either.

“There are all sorts of repairs we need to do but can’t yet without a place to move the building to,” Hastings said. “It’s a sad situation. If someone had the ability to donate private property to us it would be ideal.”

The gun club was the first in the area built specifically as a boys’ and girls’ club and still remains the only indoor range in Kitsap County where minors can learn to shoot.

Julie Gentry drives her son and daughter each Thursday from their home in Belfair, more than an hour drive each direction.

“The drive is worth it for us and it is really important to the kids,” she said, adding they have been participating more than two years. “It teaches self-discipline in a good, social environment and it’s fun. Mike really cares about the kids.”

Gentry said her son hopes to put himself through college on scholarships attained through marksmanship competitions.

Brady Beddo, 12, and his brother Ian, 10, live in Kingston and attend the Thursday night practices.

“I like shooting because it’s challenging and it’s fun,” Ian said.

“Here it’s not too big of a public place,” Brady added. “It’s kind of small which is nice because we can focus.”

Duane Weinmeister, pastor for the S’Klallam Worship Center, likes bringing kids from the Little Boston reservation because it gives them something to do.

“Normally they just sit at home,” he said. “I don’t know what they would be doing without this. The more positive activity any child has the more likely they are to stay out of trouble.”

The Kitsap Junior Marksman’s Club will continue with its Thursday night practices throughout the year.

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