ALEXANDRIA — There has been talk of trying to find property in Douglas County to build an archery range and provide a public place for people to go and shoot in the Alexandria area. Archers will now have this opportunity this summer at
was seen as a potentially perfect fit due to its proximity to Alexandria. But it became clear through the development of Brophy Park with walking and mountain biking trails, a popular playground and a beach, that it would be difficult to meet safety standards at one of the county’s most popular parks. .
“Brophy is the place to be, but there’s so much going on there that it’s not safe,” said Douglas County Parks Superintendent Brad Bonk. “If you want to have a range and the public use it and not be responsible, you have to have some setbacks. We couldn’t do a setback (Archery Trade Association) with the number of people using other things.
The nearly 97-acre Spruce Hill Park, located in northeast Douglas County, about 4 miles east of Miltona, offers plenty of open space to hold an archery range.
The range is still being finalized until May, but Bonk said it should be ready for archers to shoot in early June.
The initial cost of the park was funded by local individuals and outdoor groups, including the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Parkers Prairie Sportsmen’s Club, and the Viking Sportsmen. Jim Stratton, a volunteer coach with the National Schools Archery Program at Alexandria College, was instrumental in making the targets.
The shooting range will be located at the ball field on the west side of Spruce Hill Park Road as park goers enter from County Highway 5.
“The ball diamond was full of grass. We have to spray it to keep the weeds out of the ballpark, so it became let’s use this with something people will use,” Bonk said. “The ideal location for an archery range would be closer to Alexandria, more central, but that’s what we have. Let’s see where it goes. I don’t think the county would say, ‘We have an archery range. We are not going to make another one. I think this is a first archery range. Now is there one to
in a few years on the other side of the county? Perhaps. Or is there one with a different X,Y,Z property. There are places where we can continue to do so.
For this summer, there will be six block shooting targets that archers can use at distances of 15 to 50 meters. There is a possibility of expanding an archery park at Spruce Hill to include more targets and a small 3D course. The space is there.
“For now, we will try with these six targets. We would like to go to 12,” Bonk said. “Actually, we would like to have a raised platform for the archers. The (school) archery teams will be shooting a lot here, but the vast majority of the audience will be practicing hunters. We want to get to the big heads one day. We want to get to an elevated platform with multiple targets outside of it.
“The other thing that can happen here is we have a nice track that could work as a 3D range. With the trout at (Spruce Creek) now we should be looking at that, but there’s a way to shoot here and back to where we might have a little 3D scope in the trees.
The county used to deal with vandalism at Spruce Hill Park, but a unique fishing opportunity with trout stocked in Spruce Creek since 2019 has drawn more people to the park.
“We haven’t had a lot of (vandalism) since COVID. I attribute it to trout, but the other thing with COVID is people were just outside and in our parks,” Bonk said. “You see this everywhere, but this place took advantage of it. I think the archery is also a positive because as the trout fishing dies out late in the summer the archery will pick up again towards the fall. Bad things don’t happen when there are eyeballs around.
Bonk hopes that with the start of an archery park, an archery club near the area can grow, made up of people who want to see the archery park grow .
“(Growth of the park) will require funding, but what we really need is an archery club to form,” Bonk said. “When I was in Willmar we opened an archery range in the town. The Little Crow Archers kind of arrived and took over. There will be maintenance. The department can contribute to this. An archery range is cheap enough, but what you need for general upkeep is a club to do it and then dictate its growth. To say, ‘Hey, we really want to see this.’ It would be something where maybe an archery club meets here once a month and they do a little maintenance on the targets and discuss future plans. Something very small. Doesn’t have to be a giant organization, but we expect it to grow as people shoot here.
The county will do standard park maintenance like mowing, and new bathrooms are being added to the area. Bonk said they hope to add a shelter area in the future to make it a place people want to use in groups with friends and families.
The area around Spruce Hill Park and much of Douglas County is part of Deer License Area 213. This hunting area had 2,770 archery deer hunters in 2021. This is the fifth-most archery licenses sold of any licensing area in Minnesota.
The interest in having a place where archers can shoot has been around for a long time in Douglas County. It now exists with the potential that the Spruce Hill six-target park is just the start.
“I always look at things over long periods of time,” Bonk said. “You could see building that and having a bunch of guys and girls get together and start an archery club and see where they could take it. He doesn’t have to stay here. This might just be the start. »