New Paltz residents say shooting range on private land is noisy, potentially deadly

Residents and business owners from both sides of the Wallkill River have converged on town of New Paltz officials to voice their objections to a shooting range on private land on Springtown Road. The noise is distracting and disturbing, they say, and there are worries that this unregulated shooting space poses a very real danger to anyone within several hundred yards. Police are unable to shut down the activity because it is within the scope of state law. Town council members are now being asked to consider passing a local law to allow for a crackdown.

The property in question, near a bend in the river between Dug and Kleinkill roads, is empty but for a high earthen berm before which are hung a variety of targets. All around are scattered hundreds, if not thousands, of shell casings in a variety of sizes. According to neighbors, the use of those targets results in periods of near-constant gunfire that can last several hours at a clip. At one point last year there were actually explosions rocking the area; police did put a stop to that, but without property owner cooperation, there’s little else they can do to end the practice, which has gone on for at least ten or 20 years to hear neighbors tell it.

According to a neighbor, and confirmed through the Ulster County Parcel Viewer, the property is owned by Kenneth Campbell. The given phone number was out of service when a reporter called it.

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“We’ve tried to do this as individuals,” Sandra Panman told town council members at their meeting last week. She and other signers of a letter fear that the unregulated shooting range could yield a death from a stray bullet. The shooting sessions — which she described as happening five to six times a week — are also likely to depress property values, in her opinion.

“I’ve lived there 20 years, and they’ve been shooting since I moved there,” said Amy Kletter at that meeting. There is no fence, no signs to indicate the use of firearms and no way to determine who’s there except to stop in and ask the people with the guns. Having a property that “sounds like a war zone sometimes” is not in keeping with the “developing bike culture” in New Paltz, she told elected officials.

In a separate letter, Garvan McCloskey, whose restaurant is across the river, called the intermittent shooting a “terrible nuisance,” most particularly when it occurred during a wedding reception. The guns being shot include semi-automatic weapons, meaning that the reports can be rapid and frequent.

Larry Furey, pro at the New Paltz Golf Course, considers it far worse than a nuisance. It interrupts the calm many golfers depend upon to play well, and the fourth hole of the course is close enough to the action that a stray bullet could end up reaching that far. He recalled that when exploding targets were used by a group a year or more ago, the windows of his wife Karen’s Cafe Upstairs on 9 Cafe actually shook.

Furey was near to shaking himself as he described many years of being “nice about it,” years which are now at an end. The New Paltz Rod and Gun Club is near the golf course, but Furey said he has no problem with noise or safety from that quarter. Furey said that his business partner, a gun owner himself, guessed that some of the ammunition being shot was .50 caliber, and could travel up to 4.2 miles.

“I could get 500 golfers here for the next meeting [of the New Paltz Town Board],” Furey said.

Caroline Paulson, who lives farther up Springtown, spoke with board members as “an advocate for my region” and former member of the gun club. She lauded the commitment to safety and attention demonstrated by gun club officials, and in contrast said of property owner Campbell — who was not present at that meeting — “I have to say he’s a fool” for allowing the shooting to occur without any oversight. “I hope that steps will definitely be taken to end this,” she added.

Victoria Curry grew up with guns in her home, but nevertheless thinks this is not the place to exercise second-amendment rights. A former owner of a bed and breakfast nearby, she told Town Board members that “you don’t want to hear shooting” when visiting from Brooklyn. “This town is really changing,” she said, transitioning from a rural hunting culture to an economy dependent upon those tourist dollars.

Curry noted that next door to the range is a garden, and that its owner has found shells on his property. She was referring to Ray Lunati, another signer of the letter who was not in attendance at last week’s meeting. Reached by phone, Lunati characterized Campbell as “a really nice guy,” but not someone receptive to limiting the activity. Lunati pointed out that in addition to golfers across the water and various pedestrians on the near side, people regularly paddle by in kayaks.

Lunati is also no stranger to firearms, and frequently will ask visitors to the property to hold off while he’s gardening. “I asked one group who their safety officer was, and they said, ‘what?’” He told them, “You need someone to make sure no one’s behind the berm when you start shooting.” He also remembers the period of explosive discharges, which he said were tannerite, a type of binary explosive target. On that occasion, he called the police himself, and brought the matter to Campbell’s attention. “He said he didn’t want that going on.”

“I didn’t mind when it was people in the neighborhood siting a gun for deer hunting,” Lunati said, “but this is people from all over.” He never sees Campbell or his son among the shooters, and spoke about both in glowing terms, recalling how they interact with neighbors and helped out when the Wallkill floods. Lunati agrees there should be limits placed on the use. “It’s all about consideration,” he said.

Concerns over lead in the soil in this flood-prone area were also raised, but police chief Joseph Snyder said that testing without permission requires a warrant. Campbell’s son, Ben, has disregarded police requests to rein in the activity by posting “no trespassing” signs, Snyder said, and existing laws don’t give them leeway to do much more than ask nicely as long as the explosions don’t resume. It’s legal to discharge a firearm next to a road, just not across it.

Asked about town police officers who use the space, Snyder confirmed at least one member of the force had been known to frequent there, but he’s warned his officers to stay away due to the controversy now surrounding the property.

Board members were unaware of the situation, despite the property being used in this way for many years. Snyder said it’s “in the perfect place” not to be noticed by anyone but neighbors. With it now on the radar, efforts are underway to speak with Campbell and also look into possible legal remedies; as of last Wednesday, Town Supervisor Neil Bettez did not have anything new to report on that front. Doubtless it will be raised on a Town Board agenda in the very near future, with or without 500 angry golfers in the audience.

There are 40 comments

  1. Dr. Samuel Coult

    According to the New State Office of Real Property Services, only contiguous neighbors can claim “nuisance”, which equates to 10% off your assessment, and 10% then of all your taxes. If you are a landlord, you get 50% to 60% off.
    “Bike culture”? “Give them a brake.”

  2. Old Gunky

    The shooting has gone on without incident for over 20 years, and all of a sudden it’s dangerous? No all of a sudden city people have moved to our town and decided they don’t like our culture, not to mention our bill of rights. Move back to Manhattan if you don’t like it.

    1. Truther

      No you crazy nut job…people are finally so fed up they are going to have it stopped.
      Put your toys down and do something worthwhile.
      You folks with the perversion of masturbatory gun-play have serious problems, you are just
      the ‘bully’ using a different method.
      Oh, and as for the ‘bike culture’ … yeah, its part of the more than $580,000,000 (that’s more than
      one-half a billion dollars) in tourism that drives Ulster County’s economy…and keeps your gun-loving
      taxes a whole lot lower.
      Sorry Old Gunky…the majority don’t feel like listening to this garbage any longer.
      Zip it…

      1. Horace Smith

        Judging by the comments you’re the unhinged one and also in the minority, sounds like you’ve been riding your bike with no seat because you’ve got something up your a**.

      2. Rodger. D.

        Strongly Agreed. We really Dont need People Shooting Guns at Will, Video Tape Them, Call 911 Every Time. Eventually They will be Arrested and Stopped.

        Think About Peoples Pets, And My Right To Public Safety.Remove Your Gun Rights.

          1. Rodger. D

            Their Rights, You Mean The Neighbors Living in Terror??

            Dont Worry We Are Preparing Huge Legal Action To Stop This.

            See You in Court Soon……..

  3. Springtown

    I live on Springtown road, and the gunfire has escalated remarkably. Word is out that free shooting is allowed at an uncontrolled space. There are no time limits. The noise and the charged atmosphere of rapid gunfire continuing for hours is not just a nuisance: it is a taking of other peoples privacy. It should stop. It is not about City people versus locals, that is ridiculous.

  4. Not in keeping with the developing biking culture.

    Wow. Awesome argument. You can literally ride a bike ANYWHERE. There are only certain places where you can shoot, especially in a place like New Paltz. Let’s also remember here, this is on the guys private land and people are trying to tell HIM what to do with it. Yeah, not intrusive at all. Not a solid argument to be had in this piece. Also shout out to HVO for posting the guys name in the article, I’m sure he won’t be harassed at all…

  5. Springtown Resident

    As a resident of Springtown Rd I do hear gunfire almost everyday. This comes more from the gun club that the private range. The golfers “calm” is broken just as much from the gunfire at the New Paltz Rod and Gun Club as by the private shooting range. The land has been used as a shooting range for over 20 years, now there is a problem? Your visitors from Brooklyn can’t hear the shooting at the Gun Club? And as for the “the developing bike culture” of New Paltz – I’ll keep the shooting range – let’s get rid of the bicyclists that don’t follow the laws and create a traffic hazard both in town and on Springtown Rd. Maybe the New Paltz Police could harass the bikers instead of those trying to legally express their second amendment right.

  6. TheRedDogParty

    As a former resident of New Paltz for over 25 years, one of my favorite meditation spots was the rail trail bridge. Sad to say that with the incessant shooting, this beautiful spot is not very pleasant to visit or hang out at. I recognize the rights of business/gun owners, and the police to have practice ranges. I wish I had a solution. Until someone can come up with a way to satisfy everyone, I no longer feel comfortable visiting this unique spot with the intrusion of the noise from the shooting range. Sorry.

  7. Rodger D.

    We need strict gun control. Take Your guns to an official gun range or face criminal charges.

    Now we understand why we must have gun control, such gun owners as this unlicensed shooting range area is drunk people shooting guns for fun and intentionally to annoy, harass, and threaten neighbors.

    Call New York State Police every time these people endanger Your safety, Video tape them shooting their guns, contact the District attorney of Ulster County and file criminal complaint against them if they continue to threaten Your safety.

    1. Old Gunky

      You seem to think that there are laws that say you can only discharge a firearm on an “official gun range.” There are not. There are laws about shooting from a moving vehicle, within x distance from a road or house, but as long as you are far enough away from roads or houses you are fine.

      That said, the town or more likely the village could probably pass a “no discharging any firearm with city limits” type law if motivated.

        1. Rodger. D

          New Paltz Entire Town Should be Gun Free Zone 100% No Guns.

          No Gun Shops, Gun Sales, Gun Possession, No Shooting in Town or Village

          We Need A Town/Village Firearm Restriction Law To Restrict Gun Owners As Much As Possible, We Need To Push This No Gun Agenda And Not Stop Until Guns Become 100% Outlawed.

          Citizens Are Not Responsible Enough To Own Guns. The Wild West is Over…..

      1. Rodger D.

        We can let the Ulster County Court and Maybe Jury decade if it is criminal to discharge a firearm within a local community when local residents collectively feel threatened.

        Video Tape The illegal Shooting, Call State Police, Call Ulster County DA, Report To ATF and Demand Formal Investigation of These People Shooting Guns Clearly Endangering the Local Community.

        Do Not Tolerate Their Gun Threats.

        1. Sam Colt

          Seems like you don’t understand our criminal justice system, jury’s nor county courts make the law. Discharging firearms on private land over a certain distance from roadways and other homes is not illegal, plain and simple.

      2. Rodger D.

        No Sam Colt i am Strongly Advocating Removal of Your Legal Right To Own A Firearm.

        Eventually Very Strong Gun Control Coming To USA.

        You Right To Bear Arms People Are A Serious Threat To Public Safety And Must be Stopped.

        No Way Should Guns be Available To The General Public For retail Sale. it is not Your Legal Right To Bear Arms.

        REVOKE/REMOVE/STOP: THE 2ND AMENDMENT

        1. Ayar Phifteen

          Good luck with that, also the word you’re looking for is “repeal.”

          Additionally, Why Are You Capitalizing The First Letter Of Every Word? It Makes It Seem As If You Are Completely Out Of Your Mind.

  8. Rodger D.

    Reported to A.T.F. and made private report to State Police.

    Called Kingston Freeman and spoke to DA, made formal report.

    We Will Stop The Gun Threats On Springtown Road.

    Video Cameras Now Active in Area.

    Many neighbors we spoke with have been very helpful in providing information to appropriate authorities for further investigation.

    1. J.M. Browning

      You’re bugging out man, just because you’re not mentally fit enough to own firearms doesn’t mean the rest of us have the same issues. What threats do you speak of? You should probably seek a mental health professional who specializes in paranoid delusions. You don’t sound well, please seek help.

      1. Rodger D.

        You are the Paranoid one who must own firearms.

        Paranoid People as You own firearms.

        Funny a gun owner uses the word “Paranoid”, actually scary.

        *Vote No Right To Bear Arms

  9. Southern Sawyer

    He is following the law on his own land and has been doing so for some time. How long have the neighbors been living there? If just as long this is not new business, if recent why is the land owner in the wrong? He has paid taxes for a long time, he is following the federal and state laws, why is he being outed for this?

    Why would someone move to or open a business in such close proximity to this and now complain? In purchasing private property to build or move to it should have maybe been mentioned prior to the purchase, full disclosure.

    The effort the complaining folks are putting in to this maybe they should be proactive and place a few signs on the edge of their own properties and the Wallkill warning of possible gunfire.

    I wish the complainers would not waste our law enforcement and DA time on personal preference and let them focus on our true social issues, drugs and domestic violence.

    If there were no

  10. William Dawes

    “Listen my children,
    And you shall hear,
    Of the midnight ride
    Of Paul Revere.”

    If the Town tried to pass a law forbidding the discharge of firearms on private property, the NRA would come down on their ass so hard and fast, there would be no time to reload.
    The Town did pass a law forbidding the discharge of firearms during hunting season (and the rest of the year) on Clearwater Road to keep bullets from flying across Route 32 North. That was around 1999, and no such law has been attempted since.

    1. Rodger D

      The NRA Days Are Very Limited, And The Decision Will Be From Many Liberal New Paltz Voters Who Support Strong Gun Control.

      The NRA Should Enjoy its Very Last Days, The NRA a Very Bad Violent Organization Promoting Mass Shootings, and Gun Violence.

      Time For Very Very Strict Gun Laws in The USA.

      Even Toy Guns Will Be Banned From Stores and Children.

      1. Annie Oakley

        No squirt guns, rubber band guns and no fore-finger and thumb too.
        I’m turning in my Girl Scout merit badge for riflery, my gold medal from the Olympics for rifle-shooting and my collection of shooting trophies. You want ’em?
        Don’t answer that.

        1. Rodger D

          If Voters in New Paltz Village, Town or both, choose vote No sale of guns, and ammo in New Paltz it could be possible to get all gun and ammo sales illegal in New Paltz.

          We actually do need such vote to ban gun and ammo sales in New Paltz.

          Springtown Road can set a good example of why we must get these gun threats removed now.

  11. Mark

    We had a similar problem on public lands on the other side of the Hudson. It took a lot of phone calls to the sheriff and DEC to shut it down. People from miles around would show up with their bump stocks and fire from dawn till dusk, then into the dark. All of this was within 1/4 mile of the AT, and a few 100 feet from houses. Note that a rod and gun club operates right near this zone, and is a good part of the community. The problem was with nut jobs showing up and shooting into the woods, saying it was their second amendment right. They too were using explosive targets, making it sound like a war zone, and occasionally setting things on fire. Glad its stopped, and we will not hesitate to demand the arrest of anyone caught there doing it again.

  12. Rodger D.

    Excellent article, Great work in stopping these often Drunk Very Purposeful, irresponsible, often Minors, who are in possession of Firearms and Ammunition, a Truly Very Bad Combination.

    Video Tape and Report.

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