‘It would sound like a war zone’

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2018

More residents sound off on proposed training center, shooting range near Saluda

SALUDA — Jacques Bourgeois is 8 years old.

He lives just off Macedonia Road in Saluda, a half-mile from the site of the proposed Henderson County law enforcement training center and shooting range.

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Jacques spoke at the April Henderson County Commission meeting, pleading for the commissioners to reconsider locating the training center on the proposed site. Jacques said, since he is homeschooled, the woods near the proposed site are his classroom.

“Several days a week, I’m in those woods studying and observing nature for assignments,” he said. “My dog Daisy and I roam the property [Macedonia Road site], and map out and name the landmarks we see. My friends love to visit me because most of them have never experienced a forested backyard that feels so full of adventure, yet is safe to explore. “

Jacques and his family are just one of many residents who would be directly affected by the proposed police facility. In addition to their concerns about the effects on the environment and the wildlife, the residents are concerned about their way of life being changed forever.

Eight-year-old Jacques Bourgeois and his dog, Daisy, hike the property on Macedonia Road that is a proposed site for a law enforcement training center and shooting range. (Photo provided by Save Saluda)

“It scares me to death,” said Judy Thompson, who has a neighbor who occasionally practices target shooting. “When he starts shooting I literally run inside.”

Thompson lives less than a mile from the proposed training center site.

“What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” asked Susan McHugh, who lives on Macedonia Road. “Am I supposed to close the door and stay in the house?”

“The tears just rolled from my eyes,” said resident DiAnne Arbour. “It’s unconscionable that they would destroy this way of life.”

Thompson said as her neighbor practices shooting at targets, she is getting a firsthand feeling of what it would be like to live near the military style training center and shooting range Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald is proposing for the 99 acres at 2823 Macedonia Road.

McHugh said, like Jacques, everybody in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site spends time outdoors. She said many of them specifically moved to that location next to the North Carolina Game Lands so they could enjoy the outdoors, hike to the Green River, watch the wildlife, spend time in their gardens and more.

Nancy Wilson, who owns Camp Wayfarer, lives a half mile from Macedonia Road. Children from all over the world, including children as young as 6 years old, autistic children, children with bipolar issues and at-risk youth from Washington, D.C., stay for weeks at her camp. She said they operate nearly year-round — from March until the first of December.

According to Wilson, the second largest concentration of camps in the country is in Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania counties. Wilson said a 2011 study by North Carolina State indicated the economic impact of such camps for Henderson County alone was $120 million annually.

Wilson fears that if the training center and shooting range are built on the Macedonia Road site, large portions of her property will be unusable for camp activities.

“What do we say to those kids that come to camp?” she asked. “Sorry?”

“It would just destroy that 99 acres,” said Jay Bergen, who lives with his wife, Arbour, a half-mile from the proposed site. He said they would destroy a forest that has not been logged in at least 60 or more years.

According to Bergen, Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt described the property on Macedonia Road as “remote.”

“It may be remote from Hendersonville, but it’s not remote to where we live or to Saluda,” he said. “The impact on the local economy is going to be drastic.”

The residents are very concerned the sounds from the training center and outdoor shooting range will reverberate across the mountains and valleys. Wilson said she can hear the shots that Thompson’s neighbor fires 2.5 miles from her property.

“It would sound like a war zone,” said Bergen.

Both Sheriff McDonald and Wyatt have described the facility as a “360-training center.”

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and county manager did not respond to the Bulletin’s requests for further details as of press time.