Work is continuing on a state-of-the-art shooting sports complex for Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell. The construction phase was kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 29 attended by Oklahoma A&M Regents, OPSU staff and faculty, students, and representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and OPSU Foundation.
OPSU President Tim Faltyn announced that the centerpiece building at the complex would be named the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Center, honoring the longtime member of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission who made a generous donation to cap a fundraising campaign for the building.
“The OPSU shooting sports complex would not be happening if it had not been for the tireless support and generosity of John D. Groendyke,” Faltyn said.
“This range is going to teach people that this part of our heritage … is something to be proud of, and it can make us all better if we use it right.” The new complex will be a tool to educate about shooting and firearms but also to illustrate safe and responsible use.
OPSU recently added shooting sports teams — archery, rifle, shotgun and pistol — to its athletics lineup.
The Wildlife Department was able to leverage federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration funding to help with project costs. The Department will be able to use the complex for educating the public about safe firearms use, responsible hunting practices and more. The complex will also be open for use by student groups such as FFA and 4-H, and the community at large.
A dirt-turning ceremony included people who have supported the project.
Groendyke is currently chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Commission and chairman of the board of Groendyke Transport, among the nation’s largest motor carrier companies. His father was a 1931 alumnus of OPSU, then known as Panhandle Agricultural and Mechanical College. He said the shooting complex “will do great things for Oklahoma Panhandle State University, and it will do a lot of great things to support the hunting, fishing, archery shooting and all of the outdoor sports that the Wildlife Department, and a lot of the youth that are out here today, support.”
The Wildlife Department is several years into a campaign to build or renovate existing shooting ranges on its public use areas across Oklahoma. Renovated ranges are open at Lexington and Cherokee wildlife management areas. Other renovations are underway at Pushmataha and Beaver River WMAs.
Set for future renovation are shooting ranges at James Collins, Okmulgee, Canton, Fort Gibson, Fort Supply, Hickory Creek, Texoma-Washita Arm and Optima WMAs. And new shooting ranges are to be built at Atoka, Kaw, Copan, Hugo, Packsaddle and Sandy Sanders WMAs.
These and other similar projects are funded with grants from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Anglers, hunters and outdoors enthusiasts pay an excise tax when they buy goods related to outdoor activities. That tax revenue is distributed back to the individual states. So each time an Oklahoman buys a license or outdoors-related merchandise, he or she is supporting important conservation efforts such as installing boat ramps or increasing hunting access.