The Collegedale, Tenn., Police Department has found a place for a long-awaited new firing range and driving track: at the local airport.
A runway expansion set to begin this spring at the Collegedale Municipal Airport will eliminate a small police range on the 135-acre property off Apison Pike, said Chief Dennis Cramer, but the annexation of an additional 52 acres for the project gives the department a chance to build the larger training facility it needs.
"We knew we would lose the range when they extend the runway," Chief Cramer said. "So when all this developed with the new property, it worked out perfect."
He said Collegedale police have appreciated the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department's willingness to share its training facilities at its Dayton Boulevard annex, but officers have wanted their own training ground for several years.
"We finally have it on paper," he said. "We're real happy about it."
Airport officials, who are expanding the facility's 4,700-foot runway to 5,000 feet to comply with insurance requirements for certain aircraft, first brought the idea to the police department, according to director of airport operations Frank Zarski.
Knowing the department had been on the lookout to expand, Mr. Zarski said, officials felt sharing a piece of land that already will be owned and operated by the city would be ideal.
"We're one big family," he said.
Officials do not yet have solid cost estimates, he said, as engineering is still in beginning stages.
Blueprints are being drawn for several developments for police, according to Chief Cramer, including a shooting range for both pistols and rifles, a track for officers to practice driving emergency vehicles and classroom space for training.
"This year we're working on getting the range in place," the chief said, explaining that the various elements will be installed in phases. "It's going to be pretty large. We're going to have more than enough room for what we need."
In the long term, Chief Cramer said, the department hopes to open the area to the public, as well.
"What we're hoping to do is not only have a driving track, but a motorcycle safety track," he said, adding that a bicycle safety track is possible, as well.
Although airspace rules prevent full-time occupancy of facilities near the airport, Chief Cramer said, an occasional class on a remote area of the grounds should not present any safety issues.
"The terrain there is going to make it so no one can get hurt," he said.
Mr. Zarski agreed.
"It's going to be far enough away that it won't be an issue for us," he said.
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