HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu’s only public shooting range is nestled beneath Koko Head. It’s been shut down for over a month.

The Department of Parks and Recreation closed the gun range in mid-September due to staffing shortages. It was expected to remain close through October while the city worked on its berm renovation project.

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Greg Knudsen, Hawaii Kai neighborhood board, said he feels there’s more going on

“I don’t feel (the city’s) been completely upfront and in discussing the reasons for why the range is closed,” Knudsen said.

He’s concerned the berm they are planning to renovate — that is used as a backstop for the shooting — is contaminated with lead.

“We’ve been asking for two months about some safety concerns regarding the lead contamination of the berms that are behind the rifle and pistol ranges,” said Knudsen.

He’d hoped to get some answers during Tuesday’s neighborhood board meeting.

While the Mayor’s representative, Amy Asselbaye, did discuss the berm replenishment project, she did not address any of their concerns or answer any questions about lead contamination during the meeting.

“The department will cover the existing berms on the shooting range with clean topsoil, this soil will create a buffer to receive new bullets,” Asselbaye explained.

“The city’s plan appears to be just trying to cover it up,” Knudsen said. “To cushion it with 300 cubic yards of new dirt but that doesn’t solve the problem it, just buries it, tons of lead contamination in the site in the berm.”

In November and December of 2020, the city closed the complex intermittently for a lead remediation project, spending about $146,000 to remove lead from the gallery areas.

Knudsen worries it could be a larger problem. And if it is, he wants the city to warn people.

“Is this a real hazard or a danger to the range or to the surrounding community?” Knudsen said.

The director of the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Laura Thielen, later said this statement:

“The City’s Department of Parks and Recreation is working to immediately improve safety at the Koko Head Shooting Complex by adding a thick layer of clean dirt to the existing berms, encapsulating the existing berm and providing a greater protective layer that will help prevent any inert material kick-back. In the longer term, the City plans to undertake capital improvement projects that will not only improve the user experience but improve – above and beyond what is required for daily operational maintenance and cleaning by the EPA – the safety conditions at the shooting range. We are being overly cautious, in the interest of public safety, and we appreciate the patience of the public as we work to implement these improvements.”

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KHON2 reached out to the Department of Health and is waiting for a response.