Cleanup of Brooksville gunnery range nears trajectory's end

BROOKSVILLE — Two years after it began searching for unexploded ordnance left on a World War II practice range north of the community of High Point, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it may be wrapping the project up.

According to corps spokeswoman Amanda Ellison, the agency found just five rocket grenades, two of which were found to contain high explosives, in its second-phase search of the former Brooksville Turret Gunnery Range.

Project managers believe they may be close to the trajectory limits of the weapons that were being used at the time.

"They're finding less and less the farther they move away from original range," Ellison said. A search of a 20-acre pasture north of Greenwood and west of Weeping Willow streets will begin in October. If nothing is found on the parcel, Ellison said, the corps may elect to terminate the search.

The corps will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to provide information on the history of the site, results of previous munitions removal, and future investigation plans for the site.

The range, which was leased by the Department of Defense between 1943 and 1946, originally included 10,000 acres. It is about 3 miles west of Brooksville and north of State Road 50.

When it was active, combat infantry units used the range for rifle and bazooka practice. Although the Army made an effort to clean up the area before abandoning it, residents moving into homes built there during the 1980s and 1990s reported finding unexploded ordnance once they began developing their land.

Although no one was injured by the explosives, residents became increasingly concerned over the possibility of uncovering a live round in their back yards.

In 2006, the corps announced that a $7.1-million cleanup operation using a private company would be done in two phases, starting with a 70-acre site north of High Point. During the first phase, workers removed more than 280 rockets and practice rounds, 54 of which contained high explosives.

The second phase, which began last summer, yielded considerably fewer munitions than contractors thought they would find.

"It's a good sign that we might be near the end," Ellison said.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

Cleanup of Brooksville gunnery range nears trajectory's end 09/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 11, 2008 3:01pm]

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