Chabot Gun Club – necessary closure, unnecessary delay

By Ilana DeBare

The East Bay Regional Park District board made a welcome decision on Tuesday to shut down the Chabot Gun Club, which has been leaching toxic lead into the watershed of Lake Chabot.

But the board, apparently trying to placate gun owners, gave the club a full year to shut down – six months more than was recommended by park district staff, and far more time than is necessary.

“It’s a sign of progress that the gun range’s days are now finally numbered,’ said Golden Gate Bird Alliance Director Cindy Margulis.  “However, it’s regrettable that the District’s Board is effectively allowing this public health menace to continue for an entire year.”

The gun range’s lease expired in January 2015 and the EBRPD board granted it an extension until January 2016, then another extension through the end of this month. With this week’s vote, the range can continue operating through March 2017 but then must close.

Park neighbors, park users, and conservation groups including GGBA and Sierra Club have been urging the district to close the range because of its toxic lead pollution and noise issues.

Ammunition at Chabot Gun Club / Photo by gritphilm (Creative Commons)
Debris at Chabot Gun Club / Photo by gritphilm (Creative Commons)
Male Bald Eagle at Lake Chabot / Photo by Mary Malec
Male Bald Eagle at Lake Chabot / Photo by Mary Malec

Lead was not commonly seen as a health danger when the range opened in 1963, but today it is well documented as causing anemia, brain damage, neurological disorders, kidney damage, reproductive disorders in humans as well as wildlife. In addition to being a popular site for hiking and picnicking, and a home to many wild species including Bald Eagles, Lake Chabot is an emergency drinking water source for the East Bay.

The cost of cleaning up past lead pollution from the gun range is estimated at between $2 million and $20 million. Each additional year of shooting will cost at least $200,000 to clean up – costs that will fall upon the park district and the East Bay taxpayers who support it.

“We had been asking them to shut down in under six months,” said Pam Young, chair of GGBA’s East Bay Conservation Committee. “Those previous extensions provided plenty of time for the club to make plans for closure. The longer it goes on, the greater the cost and the greater the harm.”

Both Young and Margulis testified at the EBRPD hearing yesterday, and GGBA board members emailed the park district board this week pressing for a final and speedy closure.

But hundreds of Gun Club members turned out at the hearing, urging the board to overrule park district staff and keep the range open.

Young said she’s worried that a year from now, gun range advocates could pressure the board to reconsider their decision and keep the facility open.

“This really has to be the end,” she said. “There cannot be any more extensions.”


Make your voice heard! Email the EBRPD board thanking them for their decision to shut down the Chabot Gun Club, and urging them to hold fast to the 12-month deadline. East Bay Regional; Park District board members are:

WHITNEY DOTSON – Ward 1 (Richmond)

JOHN SUTTER — Ward 2(Oakland)

DENNIS WAESPI – Ward 3 (Castro Valley)

DOUG SIDEN  – Ward 4 (Alameda)

AYN WIESKAMP – Ward 5 (Livermore)

BEVERLY LANE – Ward 6 (Danville)

DIANE BURGIS – Ward  7 (Oakley)