Parish opens state of the art rifle and archery range

John Dupont
Susan Mason, wife of Dick Mason, advisor to the President of Shintech Inc., joins Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso and other officials in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new rifle and archery range Sept. 7 on 26850 La. 1 South in Plaquemine.

Iberville Parish is now home to a state-of -the art rifle and archery range, and it came with a little help from its friends.

A ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday marked the dedication of the rifle/pistol/bow range, which officially opened to the public Sept. 11. A crowd of approximately 150 attended the event.

The facility on 26850 La. 1, just south of the Plaquemine city limits, was constructed for use by Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. and the Iberville Parish Council. The facility will be available for use free of charge for Iberville Parish residents and all veterans, but a fee will be imposed for those who live outside the parish.

All Iberville Parish law enforcement and Louisiana Wildlife Fisheries officers can use the facility at no cost but must present a valid driver's license or photo ID, along with a work-related badge.

The $1.3 million project came to fruition through a land donation from Shintech. The Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office had a firing range on Choctaw Road until the early 2000s when the polyvinyl chloride company built its first plant in the area, which borders the West Baton Rouge line.

Nearly 20 years later, Ourso had sought acreage for a new facility, but a law which requires the facility to be no less than one mile from any residential area created an obstacle for the project.

A surprise from an unexpected source reversed the fortunes for the project. Ourso received a call from Shintech executive David Weis, who offered land for the project.

Danny Cedatol, vice president of manufacturing, took over the mantle upon Weis's retirement.

"Weis said before he went, he wanted to do something for the rifle range as a parting shot, so he gave us this lease and the rest is history," Ourso said. "Mr. Cedatol has been carrying the torch, and it's been a pleasure to work with him"

As part of a symbolic tribute to Shintech for its donation, Susan Mason, wife of Dick Mason, a chief financial officer with the company approached Ourso for its first plant.

Shintech has since expanded its presence with a PVC plant between Plaquemine and White Castle.

The facility, by its nature, includes a myriad of safety regulations. In addition to rules related to firearms and archery, Ourso urged safety for the entry and exit from the location.

"I can't stress it enough to the public that it's a dangerous crossing, so stop, look and listen," he said. "I've done everything I can to make the crossing safe . . . It's a very dangerous crossing. Look left and right, and don't take it for granted."

The facility includes a 25, 50, and 100-yard rifle range; 10, 25, 35 and 50-yard pistol range, and a 20, 50, and 70-yard bow range. It includes two covered shooting areas with seating and an office building complete with offices, training room for classes, such as hunter safety classes; and restrooms.

"We live in an ever-changing world, and I want the ability for citizens to come out here and learn proper use and practice of gun safety," Ourso said.

The Parish Council will loan earmuffs, ear plugs, safety glasses, safety harnesses, spotting scopes, and sled weight bags at no cost to all shooters and visitors at the facility.

All guns must remain unloaded with actions open except when firing.

Hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday, weather permitting, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from April through November, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from December through March.