History of Foothills Public Shooting Complex of Cleveland County

The Spark

In the fall of 2010 during a casual conversation between Sam Lockridge, Director of Solid Waste for Cleveland County, and the Honorable Johnny Hutchins, Cleveland County Commissioner, the idea of creating a safe spot on the landfill buffer area for local hunters to zero their rifles was first discussed. That idea evolved into the largest outdoor public shooting complex in the Southeast opening on April 19, 2016. Foothills Public Shooting Complex of Cleveland County is safe, modern and unique facility for multiple shooting sports to include rifle, handgun, steel targets, skeet, trap, archery and 3D archery. Foothills Public Shooting Complex was established to meet the following needs:

  • To provide a safe and modern facility for the public to enjoy the shooting sports
  • Provide a flexible firearms training area for law enforcement agencies
  • Educate the public on safe firearms handling and marksmanship with a special emphasis on opportunities for Youth
  • Provide a safe and convenient alternative as private rural areas safe for target practice diminish as the population grows
  • Economic development with the goal of hosting local, state, national and international shooting sports competitions

The Journey

The Cleveland County landfill has a buffer area that can be used for recreation use. After some initial conversations the county commissioners authorized an architect to look at the feasibility of building a shooting range and some concept drawings were made.

To gauge community support for the range a petition drive was conducted which collected over 1,000 signatures. As the idea was being discussed it became apparent there was support for the range from a large number of people in the community. Under the leadership of the Honorable Johnny Hutchins, the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners moved to study and clarify the plan for a public shooting complex. One of the first steps was a sound study conducted at the proposed sight to measure impact on the surrounding areas near the proposed site.

During these early stages there happened to be a routine meeting with Cleveland County Animal Control and NC Wildlife Officers at the landfill office where the proposed range was brought up. NC Wildlife Officer Isaac Hannah saw the potential for partnership between Cleveland County and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and contacted their upper management. NC Wildlife Resources Commission quickly joined in the effort to make the range a reality with the enthusiastic support of Eric Christopherson, NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Utilizing funding available to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission through the Wildlife Endowment Fund the state and the county began the partnership that became the Foothills Public Shooting Complex. The National Rifle Association also provided a grant through their Public Range Fund, which was established in 2009 to provide funding for the construction of public ranges across the country.

The partnership began with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission taking the responsibility of designing and building the range facilities; while Cleveland County provided the land and had the responsibility of staffing and operating the range complex. The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office also joined the partnership during the early stages along with the National Rifle Association. A non-profit was established under the name Friends of the Foothills Public Shooting Complex to support the needs of the facility.

Prior to grand opening in April 2016 the partnership established a board of directors, appointed a range master, hired and trained a staff of range safety officers and front office workers and developed the standard operating procedures for Foothills. The Foothills Board of Directors is comprised of a Chairman (Cleveland County Commissioner), Vice Chairman (NC Wildlife Resources Commission representative), and 10 members of the public from a variety of business and civic backgrounds who are appointed by the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners.

Grand Opening

April 19, 2016, which coincided with the 241st anniversary of “the shot heard around the world” when American Patriots skirmished with British Regulars in Lexington and Concord, was selected for the Grand Opening of Foothills Public Shooting Complex. Over 1,000 members of the public attended the event along with many local and state dignitaries to include NC Speaker of the House Tim Moore, Executive Director of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Gordon Myers, and many members of Cleveland County Government. The first shot fired on the range was by Cleveland County Commissioner Johnny Hutchins who had spearheaded the efforts to make the range a reality from the beginning many years earlier. There were many activities for those visiting opening day; Cleveland County SWAT Team set up a demonstration area, NC Wildlife opened a .22 rifle range and several vendors had firearms for the public to try and other products on display.

Looking Forward

We will focus on doing everything we can to provide the public a state of the art, safe and modern facility to enjoy the shooting sports. Safety is and always will be our highest priority and the facility and operating procedures are under constant review internally and externally. We welcome input on anything we can do to improve safety and customer service.

Educational classes on Hunter Safety and Firearm Fundamentals held in the months after the opening have received great reviews from the participants. Responding to the need and demand for more educational opportunities we plan on offering classes & clinics on a variety of subjects related to the shooting sports each month with a special emphasis on providing educational opportunities for youth and women.

You will also see social and competitive events throughout the year occurring at the range. Some of these will be local events and we are working on bringing nationally sanctioned competitions to Foothills Public Shooting Complex.

Our Stakeholders

As we grow we are increasing our social media and web presence so that more people will be aware of our great facility and what we have to offer here at the Foothills Public Shooting Complex of Cleveland County.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Cleveland County shared the cost of the 4+ million dollar shooting complex. The Commission used dollars from the Wildlife Endowment Fund, as well as a $25,000 grant from the National Rifle Association through its Public Range Fund, which was established in 2009 to provide funding for the construction of public ranges across the country.

Ryan Kennemur
Public Affairs Specialist
NC Wildlife Resources Commission

As Sheriff of Cleveland County, it was a great opportunity to be part of developing the public range.  It is becoming difficult and dangerous for the general public to have access to a safe place to shoot on private property. Having a safe and modern facility like the Foothills Public Shooting Complex is invaluable for the public to enjoy the sport of shooting.

Sheriff Alan Norman
Cleveland County