County focused on safety at Knight Trail Park range

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Sarasota County's Knight Trail Park isn't a typical government-run operation. It has a gun range. And for the past few months, crews have been making sure it's one of the safest gun ranges around.

The range closed over summer so workers could install large wooden beams, called baffles. It will reopen Saturday morning to the public.

That's music to Doug Haviland's ears. Shooting has become his passion.

"When I come shooting here, I enjoy different ballistics, different gun types, to see how close I can come to the bulls eye," he said. "If we make a mistake they get on us, that's important."

With 20,000 visitors coming to the range yearly, county workers wanted to make sure it was safe.

"The baffles keep the rounds in the confides of the range. That helps with, if the round is deflected off the ground. It reduces the ricochet portion," said Tim Smith, the range's chief safety officer.

With the baffles in place, the park is ready to expand. A new sporting clay course - run by Sarasota Trap, Skeet and Clays - will open next.  Their shooters will be protected and won't have to worry about stray shots.

"It prevents the round from going over the berm, to allow for the safest shooting experience. It helps guide people to shoot straight," said Carolyn Brown the County's director of parks.

It is one extra security layer that is working to keep everyone coming back to the park.

"All it takes is one misplaced round to be catastrophic," said Brown.

Knight Trail Park, located at 3445 Rustic Road, Nokomis, offers archery, hiking and camping in addition to numerous shooting sport ranges and courses. The pistol and rifle range's regular hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit