Shell shock on Peavine, Part I

This is the first in a series of columns on the recreational uses of Peavine Mountain.
The desert is littered with broken glass, tile, plastic bottles, Trojan condom boxes, hunks of furniture and pieces of metal so riddled with bullet holes that you can’t tell what they once were. Former appliances, maybe. The holey shell of a Volkswagen lies in a ditch. I park inches from a flattened Budweiser can.

But what really catches my attention in this ad hoc shooting range on the north side of Peavine is the literally thousands of shell casings that litter the ground.

“Some of these are old,” says James Calkins, a Truckee attorney who lives in northwest Reno, unearthing a few dark, old shell casings with his black dress shoe. Then Calkins kicks at shiny silver casings a few inches away. “But these are new.”

Calkins recently circulated a petition among neighbors calling for local agencies to protect neighbors from, among other things, illegal use of firearms in congested areas on Peavine. He’s presented the petition, with more than 300 signatures, to the Reno City Council and Washoe County Commission.

At this site, Calkins identifies the casings from the kind of high-powered rifle bullet that can travel up to three miles on a flat surface—and four to five miles from a high incline like the place where we stand.

From here, we have a nice, fairly close view of the new Robb Drive Elementary School. It won’t be long before kids will enjoy kicking around a ball during recess only 825 yards away from where recreational firearms buffs evidentally drink and shoot up the mountainside. McQueen High is only 1.2 miles away, well within range of a high-powered rifle. So are at least four other schools, Calkins says, that are all less than 2 miles from here.

“All it takes is somebody who’s inebriated, who swings around [away from the side of the mountain] and discharges a high-powered firearm,” he says. “I know they’re shooting in this direction.” He waves his arms toward a cluster of homes west of Robb Drive. “I’ve seen the shell casings over there.”

Calkins, who visits the site and picks up fresh casings about two or three times a week, says the site is used as a shooting range on a near-daily basis. It’s used in the afternoons on weekdays—and all day long on weekends. It’s a fatal accident waiting to happen, he says.

Not that many years ago, Calkins says, it was probably OK to use this area for target practice. That was before the thousands of new homes were built, with more to come. At the base of Peavine, where Robb Drive turns into a dirt road that winds up the mountain and where three Q & D Construction water tanks perch, a sign advertises yet another development. “Granite Ridge coming soon,” the sign promises. “Large homesites.”

No signs are posted to warn folks not to shoot in this area, though the site is well within an area designated “congested,” as it is less than 5,000 feet from the nearest residence. Shooting in a congested area is illegal. Yet Calkin says he knows of no efforts on the part of law enforcement agencies to deter shooting here.

“It’s not being enforced,” he says.

Next week: Using hikers for target practice?