Vokes Range hosted the World Police and Fire Games in 2009. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)

Government-owned Vokes Range closed indefinitely

DND dedicated site for long-range shooting back in 1977

The province’s premier long-distance shooting range has been closed indefinitely.

Chilliwack’s General Vokes Range, up Chilliwack Lake Road, had to be closed at the beginning of the year due to safety issues, according to The B.C. Rifle Association (BCRA).

That group informed its members earlier this month about the closure in a notice on its website, stating it “will have a major impact on our members from the Lower Mainland Region.”

However, BCRA president Peter Dobell says they are finding ways to work around the closure, by locating different venues for practices and events they would normally hold at Vokes. The BCRA is the only civilian user group of the range, he adds. The other users are the Department of National Defence (DND), who leases the 1284-hectare site through a ten-year learse, and other government agencies including the RCMP.

Dobell said he strongly believes the range will open sometime again, but has no idea how long the closure will last.

“I’m not privy to those decisions,” Dobell says. “It’s their bailiwick and they would be the ones to say. It is the premier range in B.C. as far as a range goes… and it is fairly substantial loss for not having it.”

The Progress sent queries to the DND and the Ministry of Forests for confirmation on the closure.

The Ministry of Forests confirms that the closure is because DND learned an additional space was required around Vokes Range and the Slesse Demolition area for a safety buffer. A new application is currently under review, the ministry has confirmed.

It’s very likely that the closure is also affecting government groups who use the range. It’s the only 600m range with a concrete bunker in the field. It’s unique location allows for loud noises that aren’t possible in other locations, and it’s length is important for long-distance rifle shooting and other activities that require annual re-certification and regular practice.

Dobell underlines, that as the sole civilian user group, they will patiently wait it out as the government finds a solution.

“We’re not mad because we can’t use it, because part of our mandate is basically safety in shooting,” Dobell says. “And if the range is closed for a safety reason, well, how can you get mad at that? We’re just a user on the range, and we realize DND is doing everything they can to bring it back into operation.”

As for the BCRA, they are looking at multiple ways of still eking out the shooting season. General Vokes Range is home to many annual events, including the BC Target Rifle Championships. It’s also home to a handful of national and international long-range competitive shooters, who will be forced to look for new ranges to practice on in order to practice for this year’s competitions.

But that will be a challenge, Dobell says, as there aren’t any ranges that are long enough in the province.

Ryan Steacy is a former military member who used to practice at Vokes Range when in service. He lives in Mission but was still shooting there as a member of the BCRA until it closed, and says the range is normally busy every weekend with events and practice times.

“Vokes Range is the only 600 m range in B.C. that has a butt, an undercover area where people can hold the targets,” he says.

Steacy said military units may have to travel to a location on Vancouver Island in the meantime — and that militia units have to shoot at least once a year to qualify.

He added that the military did not publish a release about the closure, and that the news traveled by word of mouth.

General Vokes Range is named after Retired Major General Chris Vokes, who served from 1925 to 1959, and was dedicated as a new military firing range by a federal defense minister in November 1977. (Progress Archives, Nov. 30, 1977).


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Feds announce $45 million for flood mitigation near Chilliwack

Six km of new diking will be built to protect Skway, Shxwha:y Village and Chilliwack property

Chilliwack council asking Competition Bureau to investigate gas prices

City councillor says ‘I think it’s fair to say we are being hosed’ here in the Lower Mainland

Wheelchair basketball’s Ben Hagkull inspires Cheam elementary school students

The Chilliwack native and member of the Canadian national program spoke at his former school.

New Chilliwack cycling organization focuses on seniors

Volunteer ‘pilots’ carry those with mobility issues on trishaws

Judge questions joint submission for Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted girl

Crown, defence ordered to find case law to back up one-year sentencing for Andrew Mullaly

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Canadian privacy watchdogs find major shortcomings in Facebook probe

The probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal info

Busy day for passengers on BC Ferries

First two sailings from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay full Thursday morning

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

VIDEO: Vanouver Giants come back to earn 4-3 overtime victory

Playing in Spokane for the second consecutive night, the G-Men triumph put them 3-1 in the playoffs

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Most Read