by Malcolm Butler
Surrounded by a room full of local government leaders, local police, and members of the public, Lincoln Parish Sheriff Stephen Williams talked about a dream coming true Thursday morning during the ribbon cutting for the new Lincoln Parish Sherrif’s Office Gun Range in Simsboro.
“I’ve been here since 1993,” said Williams. “It’s been 30 years I have wanted to see something out here. We were able to build something that will be used by so many of our citizens in Lincoln Parish. It’s been long needed. We get hit up all the time by people wanting to use our range or asking if there is another place to shoot. It’s a common question. We were able to solve that problem finally.”
Located at 160 Old KOA Road in Simsboro, the new facility was built with Cares Act funding and will serve a need for not only the general public, but also local law enforcement agencies. The facility includes three run ranges of 50-, 100- and 300-yards, but the newest asset is a fully-conditioned building that will be able to host numerous classes and events.
“What a great investment for all of Lincoln Parish and really and truly for north central Louisiana,” said President and CEO of Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Will Dearmon. “This is going to be a facility that is utilized not only by local business but a great training facility for local law enforcement agencies.
“I am hoping that we along with local partners are going to help shine a brighter light on these facilities. We want to not only draw as much business investment to our community, but we want to show all the types of partnerships available through investments like this in our community. This is a great facility.”
Williams said that he hopes the gun range will soon be open to the general public — hopefully around Sept. 1 — and that more details would be made public in the coming weeks. Hours of operation for the general public will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 12 to 5 p.m. and Saturday’s from 8 a.m. until either noon or 2 p.m., depending on use.
The construction of the new building, complete with bathrooms, a kitchen area and meeting space, will allow for a variety of classes: conceal handgun, familiarization courses, tactical and more.
“We host a tremendous amount, hundreds of hours, of training since we are centrally located in the northern part of the state,” said Williams. “There were a lot of events that are tactical-related – use of tear gas, use of less lethal – that we weren’t able to host because of the inconvenience of having the classroom in Ruston but then having to drive out here to do other things.
“But now we will be able to expand. It’s good for us. It’s good for law enforcement in general but it’s also good for the community. If we get 300 to 400 police officers from out of town, they will be going out to eat, they will be renting hotel rooms. It’s just good for the entire community.”
Williams said that the Lincoln Parish Police Jury was instrumental in helping with the project, using its resources to tear down and dispose of the old structure.
“As we try to do with all other parish agencies, we were able to provide a partnership with some of our heavy equipment and crews to come out and provide some dirt work for the berm,” said Parish Administrator Doug Postel. “We did some cleanup on the property that needed to be done. Just trying to help shape it up for them to provide this wonderful facility.
“It’s a tremendous asset for the citizens of Lincoln Parish. We live in an area where people are avid outdoors people. A lot of folks are firearm owners and users. It’s important that they have a facility and an opportunity to practice safety with those firearms. I think this provides them a wonderful safe place to come out and practice. You won’t find a better facility around than this for the citizens to do those things.”
Williams said the new building was used for the first time last Friday for some pre-Academy training and that it would be utilized for youth academies, hunter ed classes, tactical training and more.
He also thanked Jay and Melanie Martin at Dubach Air and Heat for donating more than $8,000 for heaters for the new building as well as Kilpatrick Funeral Home for donating the marker in the entrance of the new facility.