For multiple weeks, members of both the Harvey County Parks Department and administrative staff have been working together to determine the feasibility of establishing an archery range at East Park — much of which centered on figuring out insurance coverage for such an amenity.
This week, Park Ranger Derek Richley brought a final proposal before the Harvey County Commission lining out two options that the county could potentially pursue.
Option one would allow for an open range at East Park, meaning there would be minimum restrictions or requirements — and uncontrolled access — to use the range. Rules and regulations would be posted on signage and youth using the range would require adult supervision.
Richley noted the first option is more in line with what the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism envisioned for the range when it first approached the county with a proposal to donate equipment and construction assistance for the range, while also allowing flexibility for a variety of archery programs to use the range. If this avenue is pursued, however, the county would have to accept 100 percent of the risk associated with the range, as no insurance policy would be available otherwise.
In option two, the range would be controlled through a variety of restrictions and requirements — users signing a waiver, equipment checkout (similar to tee times at a golf course), etc. — with two companies willing to provide insurance in such an arrangement.
Some stipulations in at least one of the insurance contracts would require parks staff to be present for all checkouts. Taking that into consideration, as well as equipment/construction costs that would fall solely to the county under option two, parks and administrative staff recommended not to pursue an archery range at this time.
"We just can't guarantee we'll have parks staff there," said assistant county administrator Dan Bronson in regards to equipment checkout.
Costs for the construction of a range and the necessary equipment were not something staff was opposed to taking on, but rather it was believed to be better to include such efforts in a future capital improvement plan — once an insurance agreement can be arranged.
Looking at both options, county commissioners questioned if there was potential to look into a lease agreement with the state for the designated range area as a means to work out insurance coverage for an open range, with Richley noting he would make some calls.
"I'll try to get the ball rolling on this," Richley said.
Full liability was out of the question in the commissioners' eyes and there are also no plans to hire more staff to meet the requirements called for with a controlled range. Interest was also brought up, not only in terms of archery, but in regards to an outright gun range — and whether are not any usage was going on at the parks already.
Parks policy, Richley noted, does not allow for the discharge of any weapon on park property, unless within a designated area — and there are no designated areas at this time. While Richley noted he will reach out to the state about some other options, there are many factors left to be worked out before an archery range comes to the Harvey County parks.
"As far as I'm concerned," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel, "we're definitely on hold with this at this point."