Recording of gunfire from Collegedale shooting range made on Reykdal property
Howard and Nancy Reykdal bought their 30 acres in 1988 for its stand of oak trees, quiet country nights and curving trails that wind up a small slope of a hill where their home rests.
But the idyllic landscape and chirping birds are now punctuated by sporadic pistol, rifle and automatic weapons fire coming straight at their house off the 6000 block of Tallant Road in what is now Collegedale.
First they heard the bulldozers plowing up what was a cornfield that bordered their property line. Then they saw piles of debris from the wreckage of the 2011 tornadoes.
Then they heard gunfire.
The Reykdals say they were not told the city was building a firing range and, when the crack of gunshots grew as more city police and other law enforcement used the training site, they had nowhere to turn.
Last week, they filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court, alleging that Collegedale is violating its own ordinances by operating the range and asking for it to be shut down.
"It shall further be unlawful to discharge a firearm on any property, public or private, with or without consent, wherein such a discharge endangers adjacent or neighboring property ... wherein such discharge disturbs or endangers nearby residents or businesses," reads a Collegedale city code section cited in the lawsuit.
Collegedale officials declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.
Nancy, 55, said they first contacted Hamilton County officials last year, who told them because the range was in Collegedale city limits they couldn't do anything. And the Reykdals weren't city residents.
At least not yet. This past spring they got a notice that their property was being annexed into Collegedale.
"For our safety and security," Howard huffed as he recalled the language of the notice.
They went to the city meeting, told officials they didn't want to be annexed, but annexed they were.
The couple already had hired an attorney to deal with the gun range nuisance -- Joe Manuel. They said he tried talking with the city and officials gave a curt reply, saying they'd checked with police, who said the shooting range was safe.
That didn't satisfy the Reykdals.
In a touch of irony, Manuel represented a shooting range in a previous dispute in Hamilton County.
In 2008, it was Manuel on the side of Montlake Classic Clays, a private shooting range that had been in operation for nearly 40 years when a group of six neighbors first complained to the County Commission, then filed a Chancery Court lawsuit to halt shooting.
A local judge closed the range for violating county zoning regulations, but a state law was later passed, allowing for the range to operate with a 180-foot buffer. The lawsuit was dismissed in November 2009, according to court records.
Manuel said the two cases are different because the shotgun-only range at Montlake presented a noise concern but only for residents who moved nearby after the range had been operating for years.
The attorney said he brought a retired National Rifle Association range design expert to evaluate the Collegedale range, and the expert said it did not meet safety standards.
Howard Reykdal, a 67-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and NRA member, doesn't have a problem with a range, just not one built with no notice and about 300 feet from his property, 700 feet from his home. Police fire in the direction of his house, which sits higher than the range.
The Reykdals' home sits off Tallant Road a few hundred yards, so the couple walks near the front roadway and their pond. They've abandoned a wooden hanging swing nestled in the trees near their beloved wooded pathways because of the shooting.
When they're out walking in the front they head into the house or get in the car and go somewhere else when the shooting starts.
Their cats, Sherman and Shelby, head for cover when the bangs begin.
The couple gets no notice of when the firing will begin other than the reverberating rifle and pistol fire that causes a reflexive jump.
"They started at 8:15 a.m. today and they quit around 2:15 p.m.," Howard said Thursday. "So we got to listen to them for six solid hours. I spoke too soon. ... They're still shooting. They must have just taken a break."
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...