Rideau Ferry gun range will be rebuilt by the owner: ‘End of discussion’

Martin Whyte, owner of a decommissioned gun range on his property in Rideau Ferry, which is being remediated by the Ontario Police, says he will rebuild it. – Laurie Weir photo

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are planning to get started on the remediation next month of the former gun range on the property owned by Martin Whyte of Rideau Ferry.

“The intent is to start in June, this year, said Bill Dickson, the media relations officer for the OPP East Region. “The value of the contract, which was recently signed, is $418,000.”

Dickson said the former OPP firing range in Rideau Ferry has been decommissioned, and contaminated soils on the site will be removed.

“The site will not be reinstated as a range as part of the OPP-funded work,” Dickson confirmed. “The project work will consist of removing soils impacted by metals caused by historical OPP firing range activities, (1995-2021) and then importing clean soils to replace what was removed. The site will be returned to its existing grade level, as is standard practice. Since the soils making up the current range berm were sourced from the property originally, they will also be replaced with an equivalent volume of clean soils.”

Dickson said this material will be dumped at the site for the landowner to use and will not be built or shaped into a berm — the material shall be dumped, but not near the original berm location.

Martin Whyte is the owner of the property. For the past two years, he’s been trying to open a commercial shooting range – a place to offer veterans who would like to shoot handguns. But Whyte was denied a zoning amendment by the Township of Drummond-North Elmsley. He then tried to appeal the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal, but the case was recently dismissed.
Whyte told this publication on May 3, “Yes, the berm will be rebuilt. Period. End of discussion.”

In a previous interview, Whyte said he has every intention of continuing to shoot guns on his 120-acre property.

“We can continue to use the range for non-restricted firearms without the township’s permission or the CFO (Chief Firearms Official) supervision,” Whyte said in a previous interview. “The only reason for the zoning change is to be able to fire handguns … it will continue as a private not-for-profit range, regardless of the zoning.”

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the gun range was in use between 1995 and 2021.

“In December 2021, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) contacted the ministry about the Rideau Ferry Road site and shared a third-party environmental report prepared on behalf of the OPP,” Gary Wheeler, communications specialist with the ministry, said.

“As is typical of gun ranges, elevated lead and copper are present in the berm at the end of the shooting range. Although the levels were found above natural background concentrations in soil and groundwater they are below provincial drinking water standards.”  

Wheeler said that since there are no reported environmental contamination impacts affecting neighbouring properties, the ministry is not involved in overseeing the environmental site assessment or remediation proposed by the OPP.

Fournier further stated in a previous email communication, that “if a land is used in the township in contravention of the zoning bylaw, then bylaw enforcement measures would be utilized.”

As for other gun ranges that the OPP have used across Ontario, Dickson said the OPP have responsibilities to remediate.

“We can only comment on ranges which the OPP used,” Dickson said. “There are currently three ranges other than the Rideau Ferry range which are no longer in use. One former range in the Cornwall area is nearing completion of remediation. One range in the Timmins area and one in the Township of Norfolk, both of which have not been fully assessed with respect to contamination extent and therefore the cost to remediate is unknown at this time.”

A request for comment from those opposed to the gun range has not been received as of the time of publication.

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