A fun shooting environment with range safety officers on staff

History Of Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park



History by Brent D Jensen

July 7, 2018

Brent Jensen was an employee of BLM, and was familiar with the Recreation and Public

Purposes Act (R&PP) which makes lands available to government entities for such uses.

Working with Lenny Rees, director of the Utah Hunter Education Program, search was begun

for a shooting range location in the St. George area for this important program. Paul Landell

and Bob Bulloch, bench rest shooters were also involved early on. Several public meetings

were held to determine support for the project. Need and interest were readily evident.

After unsuccessfully searching the entire valley for a shooting range location without conflicts,

the BLM manager, Jim Crisp, suggested looking at a tract of BLM land on Purgatory Flats

near the fairgrounds. This location was found to be well suited to fill the need for multiple

shooting venues. It was remote and isolated yet relatively close to the population centers.

There was no housing nor development nearby at that time. The present housing north of

SUSSP was developed after the range opened to active shooting programs. Initially there

was concern that gunfire would disturb horses at the fairgrounds. Testing proved that this

was not a problem. Excitement has high to proceed with securing the location.

The Washington County Commission, as a local government entity (made up of Alan Gardner,

Gayle Aldred and Jerry Lewis) readily agreed to be the lease holder under the act. The

original name for the range was proposed to be Washington County Shooting Sports park.

The commissioners however desired it be known by the current name, Southern Utah

Shooting Sports Park. This has proved to be visionary as it has become known regionally,

drawing shooting usage and events from throughout Utah and surrounding states.

In order to acquire authorization from BLM, a development plan along with a time table were

prepared and submitted for approval. With Utah DWR funding, a consultant was hired who

prepared the required environmental assessment which completed the application for


One area of conflict and concern was the discovery of an endangered plant species found on

the tract planned for development. Holmgren milkvetch (Astragalus Holmgren Arium) is

extremely rare, known to exist only here in Washington County. BLM and the US Fish and

Wildlife Service, charged under the Endangered Species Act for protection of this species

agreed to approve the lease after the County volunteered to manage, interpret and to protect

the plant through fencing. This was done and the milkvetch site remains undisturbed. It is

currently monitored and studied on a constant basis by personnel from Utah Valley University

and the U.S. Plants Laboratory in Provo.

After due process BLM granted a twenty year lease of 512.53 acres to Washington County for

the shooting sports park on July 12, 1999. The park is now in the final year of the original

lease and verbal agreement with BLM is that upon expiration a, a new lease will be issued.

A well prepared and important Interlocal Cooperation Agreement was developed in 2002 by

Brent Blanchard which provided for creation and operation of the SUSSP agency with

detailed operation and management guidelines of the Shooting Sports Park. It was signed by

the cities of the county agreeing to support and assist with development and operation of the

park. It is worthy to note that St. George City from day one has not chosen to assist nor be

involved in any way. Hurricane on the other hand has been a willing and involved supporter,

helping with a variety of projects including providing of electrical power and approving of

water service installation in 2017.

The first project effort involved fencing of the three mile perimeter of the leased tract. This

was completed by volunteers from the Dixie Wildlife Federation, headed by Marvin Jones,

along with inmates from Purgatory Correctional Facility. Funding was provided by Utah DWR

and through an NRA grant. (As of 2018 the NRA Foundation has provided grant funding to

the park in the amount of $192,970.)

The first shooting venue developed was a Five Stand shotgun facility located at the entrance of the present Dixie Desperados cowboy action venue. This was accomplished under direction of Lee Scott with volunteer Boy Scouts throwing clays from behind barriers withhand operated Lincoln traps. Interest soon grew and at one point income for the day reached $600. Someone exclaimed! “we have arrived”!

This shotgun activity continued for a few years and was then moved to the present location of

the Purgatory Clay Sports venue under management and operation of the Hurricane Lions

Club. After several years this operation was assumed by the Purgatory Clay Sports Club and

developed to its present state with two five stand courses, two sporting clays courses and four

trap fields, two of which are combination skeet fields. In order to meet growing demand,expansion is currently under way for development of five combination trap and skeet fields in the near future.

While shotgun activities were on going, construction of a rifle/pistol venue was underway.

This was a difficult project which required moving a large quantity of material and even involved use of dynamite. Salisbury Construction of St. George did most of the earth moving.

They completed the job even after funds were exhausted, with considerable donated expense on their part. Washington County completed the finishing touches of earth removal.

The end result was construction of 24 bench rest shooting positions with half the range at 100 yards distant and half at 200 yards. Steve Bradbury was instrumental in securing funding from the Utah State legislature for construction of overhead baffles to manage sound and contain ricochets. An NRA foundation grant supplemented this funding.

 The sizable task of filling the baffles with pea gravel was accomplished by inmates. This venue opened in 2008. A management entity was developed through organization of Red Cliffs Rifle & Pistol Association. NRA certified Range Safety Officers (RSO) operate this venue on a volunteer basis.

As companies and individuals observed development and progress on the range, and became convinced that it was actually going to happen, they became interested and “came out of the woodwork” to contribute and assist in development. The cinder block bench rest support structures were constructed by Victor Iverson's company at no cost to the park. 

Many other contributions and assistance were provided by volunteers and companies, often at

reduced costs for construction materials or in donated services. Purgatory Clay Sports

donated the “Home on the Range” office building. As of 2018, the NRA Foundation has

provided $98,403 in grant funding for development of the rifle & pistol venue.

Soon after operations begun at the rifle & pistol venue, Steve Bradbury received a call from a

potential shooter seeking information and directions. He even asked Steve if he had to bring

his own refrigerator. Steve replied, “no we have refrigerators to shoot”. The fellow was used

to seeing TV's, computers, refrigerators etc. left at shooting sites surrounding the

communities. Hopefully this abuse has decreased.

The Practical Shooting range began operations with a shoot at the Archery venue, moved to the Dixie Desperados cowboy action venue for a short time, then to the present location.

Facilities and programs have greatly expanded since then with local and regional events hosting several hundred participants several times throughout the year.

The Red Rock Bowmen operate the Archery Venue at the park with adult and youth programs. They also host the Huntsman World Summer Games.

Dixie Desperados operate the Cowboy Action Venue. They have expanded facilities with

fifteen bays and well crafted shooting facades reminiscent of the 1890's. The Huntsman

World Senior Games also utilize this venue each fall.

High Valley Mountain Men operate the black powder venue. Vudoo .22 shooters will soon

develop and operate at this venue.

In 2011, organizationally the park became a special service district managed by the county

commissioner and venue representatives. This organization also introduced involvement of

Utah State officials including the State Attorney Generals Office. While this action is credited

with saving the park from collapse, after some three years the Special Service District was

dissolved and management returned to the local level with a Park Manager, an Executive

Board made up of representatives from each venue and two at large members, along with

officials from the County Commission and Public Works department.

Southern Utah Shooting Sports Park has become widely recognized as a first rate facility. In

addition to general public participation, programs include a wide array of youth activities

including Hunter Education, Boy Scouts, 4-H, rodeo, young men and women, church groups

and families. State and regional events sanctioned by national organizations are held

annually. Growth is seen in corporate and other special interest groups engaging in a variety

of shooting activities. The future for the park is positive as it becomes wider known as a

quality facility and interest in the great variety of shooting sports continues to grow


Red Cliffs Rifle & Pistol Association  

Located On Regional Parks Road 

(2 Miles past the DMV) 

1044 S Shooting Sports Park Road
PO Box 943
Hurricane, Utah 84737

(435) 705-4559


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