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Historic club has a good shot at a bright future

03/17/2017, 12:16am EDT
By By MATT MARKEY BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

Markey: Fostoria has oldest continuously operating trap shooting facility in state


The Fostoria United Sportsmen Club is the oldest continuously operating trap shooting facility in Ohio, dating back to the 1930s. The club is located south of Fostoria on U.S. 23. FOSTORIA UNITED SPORTSMEN CLUB

FOSTORIA — This blue collar town that sits at the junction of three counties and an iron triangle of railroad lines that carry 100 trains per day has seen pieces of its history chipped away through the decades.

The Chrysler foundry is gone, the Atlas Crankshaft plant that once employed more than 2,000 workers closed, Crow’s Grocery no longer serves its loyal north end neighborhood, the two men’s wear stores downtown are long gone and there’s no longer the Black Cat restaurant where you could get the best garlic cottage cheese around.

“We’ve lost some important places that were a big part of this city when I was growing up, so I guess that makes you hold on a little tighter to what you’ve still got,” said Gary Volkmer, a Fostoria native and recent retiree. “When you see some of those things go away, there’s a strong feeling to carry on the heritage and the traditions that remain.”

The Fostoria United Sportsmen Club is one of those iconic elements that has weathered the loss of industry and the erosion of the population base in this community, and maintained its position of prominence.

If time is the ultimate test, then this organization merits more than a passing grade. The Fostoria United Sportsmen Club is the oldest continuously operating trap shooting facility in Ohio, a badge of longevity the members wear with pride.

“Just like a lot of other clubs and organizations, we’ve struggled a bit from time to time, but we’re going to stay alive,” said Shannon Zickefoose, who has been a member for 40 years. “We’ve demonstrated that we can get through the tough times, because for so many people, this place is part of Fostoria’s history.”

A group of local men got together around 1934 with the notion of starting a conservation club. They incorporated in 1938 and initially held their meetings in a room on Main Street above the Fruth Hardware Co., another Fostoria anchor business that no longer is around.

Early in the 1940s, the members purchased a large tract of land south of town, off U.S. 23, and their first clubhouse was built around the end of World War II. A fishing pond was added, along with the wide shooting range. When the organization outgrew the original building, it was torn down and the current clubhouse built in its place, about 30 years ago.

Back when industry was enjoying a brisk period, the city grew and eventually development surrounded the site, but the club remained an island with adequate space for the safe operation of the trap shooting range.

When Volkmer joined the Sportsmen Club in 1977, he worked at the Atlas plant adjacent to the club property and often would stop in for lunch.

“My uncle and my father were both affiliated with the club, and as a young guy, this was just someplace you wanted to be a part of,” he said. “There used to be hundreds of shooters out here for the weekend events, and the club supported a lot of causes around the area.”

The club would bring veterans down from the home in Sandusky and treat them to a picnic, and it purchased new radios for the game wardens that worked the area counties. Although in recent years the times have been tougher and the money tighter, fishing derbies for kids still are a part of the programs the club offers.

The clubhouse is closed on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, but open every other day. There are shooting leagues, including a winter trap league, and special events most weekends.

Volkmer’s wife, Jacki, runs the trap shoot events at the club, which boasts state-of-the-art equipment in its four trap houses. An Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) event is scheduled for March 26, and the second Battle of the Businesses Shoot is April 2. The Fostoria United Sportsmen Facebook page has all of the details on club activities.

The Fostoria United Sportsmen Club has about 550 members, Zickefoose said, with about two-thirds of the membership made up of Fostorians. The rest come from surrounding communities, and a few from other states.

“I think people love the club because it’s been around so long, and because it still offers you great shooting, as well as a quiet place to go have a beer and unwind, and nobody bothers you,” Gary Volkmer said.

As has been the emphasis with many clubs and social organizations, there is an emphasis on building the ranks with younger members to help secure the future for The Fostoria United Sportsmen.

“This club has always had an excellent trap shooting facility, plus it’s been a good place to socialize and unwind,” Zickefoose said. “We’ve weathered the storm and we’re going to keep going. This place has meant too much to so many people over the years to let that slip away.”

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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