After months of planning, the highly anticipated Daviess County Gun club is scheduled to open on Oct. 5.

The club is a rarity among traditional parks and recreation programs in that, aside from being a county-run gun club, it has the potential to not only fund itself but turn a profit through the development of programming and events. For Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly and Daviess County Parks and Recreation Director Ross Leigh, the possibilities are exciting, Mattingly said.

"I think the club is great," he said. "It will provide a venue for sportsmen in our community. I think the fella we hired is the right person at the right time to make it a success at no cost to the taxpayer. It is one of the things that the department does that will pay for itself. The potential speaks to having six events lined up between now and then. Ross has been selling advertising for skeet (and) field, and we are looking for a title sponsor. He has sold out the sporting clay stations. We are getting a good response from people here in the community."

The opening date was stalled as Leigh searched for two employees to man the new club. On Tuesday, Daviess Fiscal Court voted to approve hiring Zack Crisp as the club's operator and promoted seasonal parks employee Mark Wagner to a permanent part-time position to aid Crisp.

While hours of operation are still being ironed out between Crisp and Leigh, the club is already seeing its fair share of use amid growing public interest, Leigh said.

"We have two private events coming up that involve over 140 shooters," he said. "The other events leading up to our opening involve the high school trap shooting programs at Daviess County, Apollo and Catholic high schools. One of the things that I have enjoyed most is the judge's willingness to adopt new programs like the club. You don't get a lot of elected officials from a parks perspective that go outside of the norm. It is exciting and really, it's like I told the judge, thank you for not making it a golf course."

The property housing the gun club was originally operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources until the mid-1980s when it was closed with the intention of developing a bird sanctuary. In 2003, the state donated the land to Daviess County with the caveat that it be used only as a recreational shooting facility.

Later that year, Daviess Fiscal Court agreed to spend $100,000 to build skeet and trap ranges at the club at 7740 Kentucky 2830 and help fund the renovation of an existing clubhouse. Retired Daviess County Fire Chief Joe Kennedy and business partner Steve Scott then invested their own money to continue renovations and reopen the facility that had been closed for years.

In 2013, the pair ended their agreement with the county and Jesse Pollock, of Rockport, Indiana, took it over. Pollock announced his intention to retire in January 2017, and Matt and Bethany Schneider, of Lexington, managed the property until the first of the year. The club has not been open during the 2019 season. The court voted unanimously on July 22 to acquire the club.

While the club has had a lackluster history in terms of private ownership, its acquisition by the county is a recipe for success, Leigh said.

"The owners in the past had genuine interest but lacked the resources," he said. "There are 70 acres of property and that is what has been challenging for private owners, they haven't had the proper tools to maintain it. Anyone can make a go, but as the property took over the premises, they didn't have the resources to be able to clean it up. That is what is going to make our operation successful, we have those resources."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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