BROOKINGS – It’s been about 10 months since Brookings County officially took over the Outdoor Adventure Center, now the Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center. With that purchase has come lots of changes to the once-struggling facility located at 2810 22nd Ave. S.
There have been new things to learn, new practices to put in place and new programs to offer, and BCOAC Executive Director Kristin Heismeyer said, “It’s been a great change.”
On the job for a little more than a month, Heismeyer feels the facility is moving in a positive direction, particularly in partnering to expand offerings on its gun and archery ranges.
“I think a lot moving forward is just to expand what we have. We really have a state-of-the-art facility here, and a lot of people don’t realize what we have. They think we’re part of the Nature Park,” she said.
One of the goals as officials continue to expand programming options at the BCOAC is try to have something for everyone to do there so that “if you’re not a bow hunter, we have something for you. If you’re a target shooter, we’ve got something. … If you’re a hunter and you want to sight in your rifle, we’ll be able to have those options.”
Free youth archery classes have proved to be a popular attraction for 8- to 15-year-olds, some of them completely new to the sport. A lot of youth are introduced to it through school P.E. programs or because they have a family member who bow hunts.
Heismeyer also thinks that the patient skill it requires is a draw.
“There’s a lot of similarities between archery and golf in that it’s strategic, it’s looking at angles, it’s that type of a sport. It’s also able to be either indoor or outdoor,” she said. “If you’re like me, hand-eye coordination, kicking balls, volleyball wasn’t really for me. I did other activities, but archery was something I could pick up.”
And Brookings County 4-H Shooting Sports offers some good opportunities for interested youth at the gun range.
With between 30-40 bows to choose from, the BCOAC does have a wide selection of bows available for use, anything from a recurve bow to a compound bow. There is also a variety of targets for visitors to use, including 3D ones.
One activity Heismeyer is excited to add is archery tag, a kind of sport that combines aspects of paintball and dodgeball with archery. Don’t worry though: it is safe since the players use foam-tipped arrows.
“You have bunkers you’ll hide behind. There’s a point-scoring system. You catch somebody’s arrow coming at you, that person is out. You can tag back in,” Heismeyer said.
That should be up and running about mid-September, and Heismeyer hopes it draws South Dakota State University students to the BCOAC.
“I think it’ll be a great addition to the community. There isn’t another facility anywhere close that has that; we’ll be the only facility from Omaha to Minneapolis that has anything like this,” Heismeyer said.
She credited the idea to employee Adam Lehnertz.
Heismeyer emphasized that safety is a big part of what they do, especially in regard to firearms. Visitors to the gun range watch a safety video before they begin. When they do walk into the indoor gun range section of the building, they open a heavy door with a sticky mat at the threshold. This mat helps collect lead particles off the underside of users’ shoes. There’s also an impressive air system in the room that filters out lead in the air and other harmful substances that happen from firing guns indoors.
It’s not just what they’re doing that they want to tout, but also their partnerships. Within the facility are offices of South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks and Brookings County 4-H.
In conjunction with SDGFP, they’re talking about offering SDSU students a safe place to store their hunting equipment.
“We know we have a large student base that are hunters, and we want to make sure that they know that they have a spot that they can have locker space that is locked and available for them. We are also looking at having a checkout for decoys available here,” Heismeyer said.
People can even rent out the ranges. Even though alcohol isn’t allowed there, they can play host to a wedding reception or a bachelor party. People can make use of a board room or a classroom that are there or host a variety of events. For example, they have a trade show planned for a group that deals in Civil War ammunition.
Another valuable feature of the BCOAC that helps ensure a fun and safe experience are the many volunteers. Right now, there are 33 total volunteers. That breaks down to 22 volunteers at the gun range and 11 for archery. Heismeyer is looking to expand the number of volunteers on hand to about 50.
One of the areas people can volunteer is range safety officers.
“They’re the ones who are at the firearm range and who help teach new gunowners the proper way of shooting. … They’re trained volunteers who conduct our concealed weapons classes or our basic pistol classes that are held at the facility. But more important than that, they’re the ones who help here when we’re open to public hours. They’re on the range,” Heismeyer said. “So if you’re renting a weapon, we’re able to check that out and show you how to shoot that particular gun. Really, we’re there to help monitor and make sure that all safety protocols are being followed. That’s what our volunteers do.”
A nice perk of volunteering – whether for the archery range or gun range – is that it comes with free membership; volunteers must work at least eight hours a month, however.
“You don’t have to be a target weapon lover; you can be a hunter. We train. We do have a training class that you will go through and be able to receive all the training that you will need to know to become a range safety officer,” Heismeyer said.
Heismeyer encouraged anybody who is curious to come over to check out the BCOAC, even if they don’t have a bow or firearm. They have their own that they’ll rent out, and they offer day passes.
People can find out more about the BCOAC at its website, bcoac.org, or its Facebook page. For those interested in volunteering, Heismeyer can be contacted at [email protected].
Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected].
Register photo: Located in south Brookings along 22nd Avenue South, the Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center has been busy expanding programming since coming under county ownership in September 2017. The space features an archery range and a gun range, and BCOAC leaders say there’s something for everyone at any skill level, even if you don’t own your own bow or firearm.