Genola residents see increase in homes hit by bullets near shooting range

Jul 13, 2023, 7:50 PM | Updated: 7:54 pm

GENOLA. Utah — The Bureau of Land Management is responding to pleas from some Utah County homeowners who say target shooting on West Mountain has increased and is endangering their lives.

On Thursday, the BLM told KSL TV the risk to homeowners is a “top priority,’ and the BLM is exploring options to restrict target shooting in the area.

In May, KSL TV first reported about stray bullets from the target shooting area above the Payson dump traveling more than a mile over the mountain and hitting homes in Genola. Since then, residents in Genola have reported an increase in bullets striking properties.

“This one is from June 20,” said Daniel Taylor showing the bullet he keeps in a pill container. “It’s a 30 caliber.”

A bullet hole on Daniel Taylor’s roof, allegedly left by a stray bullet from the nearby shooting range. (KSL TV)

Taylor has lived on Lake Road for nearly 27 years. He said in the last three years, his home and farm had been hit 20 times by stray bullets coming over West Mountain.

“We’re getting hit with bullets in the rooftops of our sheds, in and around our driveways,” he said. “I walk out at six o’clock in the morning, and I’m hearing shots. They’re shooting at six o’clock in the morning!”

When Taylor hears the target shooting, he said he’s often forced to retreat inside out of fear of being shot. And when his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are visiting, that fear and concern only increases.

“If you’re hearing shots, it’s scary, because you don’t know where the shots are going,” he expressed.

The hill where the bullets from the shooting range travel over, hitting Daniel Taylor’s home. (KSL TV)

Taylor’s farm is just one of more than a dozen in the area damaged by stray bullets. Fortunately, nobody has been hurt.

“We’re only getting more bullets, more safety concerns, and our citizens are more scared,” said Marty Larson, mayor of Genola.

Mayor Larson and Mayor Daniel Olson of Santaquin, with the support of their respective local law enforcement agencies, have submitted urgent letters to the BLM pleading for the federal agency to take the risk to lives seriously and close down target shooting on the south end of West Mountain before someone is hurt.

“It really bothers me that (BLM) want to wait until that happens to correct the problem – no, I want it corrected before that happens,” said Larson. “I think we’re being ignored. I think we, the people, are not getting the say we should have in our local area.”

Larson said he has collected and submitted over 90 signatures from residents in Genola in support of closing target shooting on BLM land near their community. He’s also submitted several letters from residents who have had property hit by stray bullets since 2019.

“I only want the south side where it’s dangerous to shut down,” he explained.

The over 90 signatures from residents in Genola. (KSL TV)

Echoing his plea to close the area to target shooting is the Santaquin Police Department.

“Within the last three years, I can confirm at least 25 properties hit, but I know some have been reported to BLM that we don’t know about,” said Sgt. Mike Wall.

Wall said target shooters can be held liable for any property damage they cause. And if someone gets accidentally shot, they could potentially face criminal charges.

“My biggest concern is that it is going to happen,” he said. “It’s not if that’s going to happen, it’s when.”

Acknowledging the safety risks, the BLM said rangers are increasing patrols on the mountain and adding more signage educating target shooters on safe shooting areas, proper backstop placement, and targets.

“As we patrol, we’re looking at the location, the backstop, and the kind of target they’re shooting at, whether or not it’s something that can break, fragment, shatter or explode, those are typically some of the targets we do not want to shoot,” said Camm Stephenson, Chief Ranger for The BLM West Desert District. “What’s happening is, if people hike up halfway up that hill and they place their targets high to practice long-range shooting, those rounds can carry up and over.”

Camm Stephenson explaining how the bullets are able to travel so far from the range. (KSL TV)

In a request for comment from the BLM on this ongoing safety issue and the mounting evidence of stray bullets hitting homes in Genola, the BLM issued this response to KSL TV via email Thursday:

“Public safety is a top priority for the BLM and we take the threat to human life and personal property within the Town of Genola very seriously. Over the last several years, we have been working hard to educate the public on safe backstops and asking them not to place targets high on the mountain – which can result in bullets carrying into Genola. The BLM has also been exploring options around restricting target shooting. There are several alternatives that we are exploring, however every alternative is a lengthy process that requires significant public input and coordination with local, county, and state governments. The BLM Salt Lake Field Office has elevated this as a top priority and we hope to have an alternative selected soon which will allow us to move forward with steps that will better protect the people of Genola.” – Hannah Lenkowski, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM West Deseret District.

For Taylor and many other residents in Genola, the only option they want the BLM to consider quickly is shutting down target shooting above the Payson dump.

“Somebody getting hurt or killed, that’s what it boils down to,” he said.

Taylor said he will no longer feel safe on his farm until they do.

“This is where we built a house to stay, and now it’s getting to a point where do you stay and take your chances or go on.”

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Genola residents see increase in homes hit by bullets near shooting range