Bastrop Co. neighbors worried shooting range could spark wildfires

New shooting range in Bastrop County (KXAN Photo)
New shooting range in Bastrop County (KXAN Photo)

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A roughly 160-acre plot of land in Bastrop County will be home to a brand new outdoor shooting range, set to open this May.

The Black Tree Ranch will be used for specialized training, serving law enforcement agencies and military professionals.

Located off State Highway 71 in between Bastrop and Smithville, owner Charles Chester says it will be a state-of-the-art facility.

Some neighbors, however, have concerns.

“People in this area have suffered enough, we’ve been through enough,” said Shawn Carroll, who can see the range from his backyard. “We’re trying to rebuild our county. This is not something I think is for the public benefit, personally.”

Carroll lost his home to the Bastrop Complex Fire in 2011, which was caused by sparked power lines.

“If something like that can cause 1,700 people to lose their homes, what is a live fire tactile range, firing high-caliber weapons going to do?”

He also has concerns about the noise and safety.

“This concerns everyone,” Carroll said. “We have two beautiful state parks we’re trying to bring back, that’s the main draw to the area, we’re the home of the Lost Pines. I think we need to try and save them before they’re totally lost.”

Carroll says neither he nor several other neighbors were consulted before construction began. However, the owner of the property was not required to discuss plans with neighbors.

The owner declined to go on camera, but provided this statement:

I am a 16-year resident of Bastrop County and volunteered during the fires as a reserve sheriff’s deputy. I am a law enforcement officer and I care deeply about the safety of my community. I’ve taken many steps to ensure safety including installing a fire suppression system and purchasing a fire truck that is parked on the property. We are building a world class training facility where law enforcement officers from throughout the area will be able to train. ” — Charles Chester, Chester Security Group

Also in favor of the range, Chief Michael Maugere with the Smithville Police Department. He says while they have a shooting range, it’s not near the caliber of The Black Tree Ranch.

Under state law, if it’s on private property outside city limits, a shooting range is legal. If within city limits, then it depends on a city’s zoning requirements.

Bastrop County Commissioner Clara Beckett says she’s heard concerns from constituents, but says the county cannot adopt a regulation for a property as large as The Black Tree Ranch.

While Beckett hasn’t been on the property, she says from what she can tell, it looks to be developed responsibly and safely.

However, neighbors like Carroll say they can’t help but have doubts, and hope the gun range doesn’t tempt fate. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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