Guard looks to probe old Johnstown rifle range

This summer, the New York Army National Guard is hoping to look for any environmental damage caused

This summer, the New York Army National Guard is hoping to look for any environmental damage caused by an old rifle range it operated in the city more than 50 years ago.

Earlier this week, the New York National Guard announced that it would like to examine the former Amsterdam Small Arms Range in Johnstown as part of the Department of Defense Military Munitions Response Program, aimed at identifying environmental hazards at old training facilities.

The range in Johnstown is one of 23 former training sites throughout the state that the National Guard Bureau will be inspecting. The training areas range in size from 3.7 to 939 acres and were used between 1873 and 1994, usually for small arms training.

The total DOD program stretches to 400 sites in 48 states and two territories formerly used by the National Guard. The program focuses on privately owned land the military has leased in the past for training purposes. National Guard officials said they are in the process of trying to obtain permission to inspect the Johnstown site from its current owners.

Sgt. Corine Lombardo, a spokeswoman for the National Guard, said the military is uncertain of the exact boundaries of the 25-acre site. The Amsterdam range was actually nowhere near Amsterdam, instead apparently straddling various city, town and county borders on the southern edge of Johnstown, west of Glebe Street/Switzer Hill Road.

The National Guard used the rifle range from 1904-57 but never owned the site, Lombardo said.

“We’ll mostly be looking for spent shell casings. This was a small arms range, so we’re probably talking about .30-caliber rifle [shell casings],” she said. “The purpose of this is trying to do something good for the environment.”

If the National Guard obtains permission to inspect the land, officials will use hand-held metal detectors and GPS units to try to pinpoint where military debris may be located. Inspectors will also be using disposable plastic spoons, about the size of an ice cream scoop, to collect soil samples no more than 2 to 3 inches deep.

The National Guard has contracted with engineering and construction firm Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group to provide technical project planning and conduct historical research.

If the inspection determines remediation of the old range is needed, funding for a cleanup operation will be available through Defense State Memorandum of Agreement funding under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

Lombardo said the National Guard is encouraging anyone who has documents, records or photographs of the range to contact her at [email protected] or 786-4579.

Categories: Schenectady County

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