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By Miriam Raftery

November 20, 2017 (Alpine) – Covert Canyon, a controversial firearms training facility long utilized by military and law enforcement as well as private gun enthusiasts, faces potential foreclosure.  CBS 8 reports that a notice of default was filed against owner Marc Halcon on October 26th.  If he does not pay $40,000 within 90 days, the property can be foreclosed on and sold at auction.

Halcon is also in default on $11,000 in property taxes on the Covert Canyon site owed to the County.  In addition, a default notice has been filed on his home and on his American Shooting Center gun store in Kearny Mesa, where he defaulted on lease payments.   He is also facing lawsuits for defaulted loans including a $600,000 collections suit filed by a private investor in El Centro and, a $126,000 lawsuit filed by National Funding, a small business loan company.

The County shut down commercial operations at Covert Canyon in March 2016, as ECM reported, because Halcon missed a deadline to prevent fires through brush clearing and obtain permits. He was allowed to continue only recreational shooting. 

The site has long been a source of controversy over its paramilitary activities that in the past included shooting of live pigs for training by military medics, as ECM reported, a practice that halted when Covert Canyon obtained permits for its military firearms training officially in late 2015 over strenuous objections of some neighbors and environmentalists. 

The property is surrounded by Cleveland National Forest and abuts the property of Clark and Robin Williams.

 Halcon has faced complaints and a lawsuit filed by neighbors and by the Cleveland National Forest Foundation who sought unsuccessfully to overturn the final approval by the Supervisors of the project.  Before obtaining that approval, an earlier version of his proposal would have included urban warfare training and other even more intense uses.

Neighbors previously complained Halcon had targeted them for harassment.

The Williams have claimed among other things that they feared having to drive across an easement through Halcon’s property to reach their home, that Halcon pepper sprayed Clark Williams and took his camera and that a Halcon employer made pumpkins to resemble the Williams and used them for practice. They have long contended that the noise from semi-automatic weapons fire disrupted the rural tranquility of their home. 

 Halcon, in an interview with ECM in late 2015 that included a tour of the property, claimed he was the target of misinformation and denied the Williams’ claims.

Halcon had previously been the target of various county enforcement actions and shutdowns through the years for issues that included unauthorized habitat clearing and filling in a wetland pond without a permit. His explanations are in the 2015 interview link above.

ECM asked Halcon for comment following the News 8 report, for this story.  Here is his reply:  “Several of the these statements are not accurate, and or misleading at best.  Mr Gonzales stated he has spent "years" on legal pursuit to stop this facility.  He neglected to mention that he has lost in every court challenge he pursued against the County and me.  Including His appeal to the 4th district appellate court. The channel 8 report allowed Mr. Gonzales to make personal attacks and name calling "journalism".  I would hope you not travel down this path. No further comments at this time.

Attorney Marco Gonzalez has represented environmental groups and neighbors in their legal battles opposing Covert Canyon.  In a statement, he indicated he doubts Halcon can pay off the default amount given his other financial debts, adding, “I am hoping that someone who actually appreciates the peace and tranquility of that valley comes in instead of what we have now, which is day after day of large caliber rifles just obliterating the peaceful nature of it.”

Duncan McFetridge from Cleveland National Forest Foundation (photo, right, by Sharon Penny), asked by East County Magazine for comment on the default of Covert Canyon, had this to say.

“We lost the appeal.  But it appears that karma is winning instead, and proves Socrates right when he said, “It is better to receive an injustice than to commit one.”  The owner of Covert Canyon has committed an unending list of injustices against community, against nature, against every code and law in the books by violating the very heart of our forest land – rare and precious wet meadow lands.  He ploughed them under and set up heavy weapon firing ranges and assaulted the fragile tranquility of the meadows with crackle of rapid gun fire.”

McFetridge adds, “Apparently other relations were assaulted as well with the owner’s heavy handedness thus resulting in a bevy of lawsuits and foreclosures and court orders.  Karma is a bitch Goddess.  To the Greeks she was known as Ate or the Furies. Keep breaking her laws,” the environmental leader and philosopher concludes, “and she will reward you may times over.”

If Halcon doesn’t pay off the debts on the property and it does go up for auction, who might seek to buy it?

George Barnett with Backcountry Land Trust, asked if his organization might have interest in acquiring the land, stated that a “decade of para-military operations” would have negatively impacted the environmental value. “It is surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, perhaps CNF could have an interest.  But all the “improvements” on the property are not compatible with the forest.”

Asked if Cleveland National Forest Foundation would be interested in buying the property to become part of CNF, should it go up for sale at auction, McFetridge replied, “Yes,” but added that the group could hold fundraisers for the purpose.

See our prior coverage of Covert Canyon:

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Police & Military ranges

I asked 2 pals, 1 with SDPD and 1 with SDSO. Both said they knew about the place but had no use for it. They have their own ranges. I know the Navy has a range just past covert canyon. Kill houses, sniper range, square ranges and all. see here: Also they have military ranges at the Navy bases and in Imperial beach. El Cajon PD (closest PD to covert canyon) has their own new range. It may be a nice place to go shoot but it is not needed. It looks like he opened the place as a commercial venture, failed to permit correctly, got into fights with his neighbors and is now paying the price. You can wave the American Flag all you want for him, but the range is not needed, our military and police take care of their own, and all the loans the owner took out knowing he couldn't pay for them seems a bit suspect.


Asking Marc is NOT asking those who support Covert. So, how about this Miriam? Ask LE what they think of NOT having Covert available. Ask the military, who are on a strenuous deployment schedule, what they think of losing MORE time away from their families because they have to drive to El Centro or the Chocolate Mountains vice having Covert available (and don't try to say the military has lots of training areas. Camp Pendleton, etc. training facilities are constantly scheduled. Ask George Barnett why he was the ONLY person on the ACPG to vote against Covert. (If he says because of the fire risk, then ask why he ALWAYS votes for increasing the fire risk in Eastern Alpine and why he refuses to clear BCLT land to mitigate the fire threat.) Why didn't you ask the ACPG chairman what the group has done, after voting nearly unanimously to support Covert, to help Marc. (I mean, there appears to be no problem approaching Jacob for campaign endorsements or PLDO money for AUSD sports fields, etc. How about supporting a local businessman? They do it all the time for housing developers and businesses in Alpine.) Ask Jacob why she didn't do EVERYTHING within her power to help Marc. Is she, and George, in support of private property rights or are they RINO's? (Jacob was banging the drum against SDG&E/PowerLink and supporting those against the Native American Casino in Jamul....yet the sound of crickets when it comes to helping her own LE agencies, and our military, get additional training facilities.) Ask Duncan Hunter about how Covert helps LE and the military. I have been to Covert numerous times and have followed this story and could give your readers insight into the lies you present in the article and the truly unreasonable neighbors Marc has had to put up with. I guessed I missed you asking for my comment, probably because you didn't want to hear what I had to say. I don't know if Covert will go under or not....but in the end, it sure hasn't been helped by those who present themselves as conservatives or Republicans or in support of private property rights. They hung Marc out to dry to likes of people like you. (You can go back to NOT reporting on all the liberals/Democrats sexually harassing everyone within their reach.)

Halcon didn't respond, and we didn't have a contact for anyone

we knew who support the project. Thanks for sharing your views Lou.

FYI,  we have not reported on sexual harassment scandals on any of the national figures, liberals(such as Al Franken) or conservatives (such as Bill O'Reilly, Rupert Murdoch, etc.)  nor Hollywood celebrities such as Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein.

As local media, we focus on local stories and in our world watch and roundups each week, link to a few top stories primarily  dealing with issues affecting people here such as key votes in the state and national capitol. There are plenty of places to reac about the latest sex scandals. We can't cover every story on the planet, and use our resources on stories with actual real impacts locally.

And notably the one recent exception to our not covering sex scandals was Bob Filner, San Diego's Mayor, a Democrat.  Your accusation of liberal bias because we don't make celebrity sex scandals our headlines doesn't hold muster.



But no request for comment from anyone who supports Marc/Covert. Guess your liberalism is showing once again.

Lou, read the story. Halcon DID provide comment and is quoted.

We sent him the Channel 8 story and asked him for comment.See paragraph from our story above:

ECM asked Halcon for comment following the News 8 report, for this story.  Here is his reply:  “Several of the these statements are not accurate, and or misleading at best.  Mr Gonzales stated he has spent "years" on legal pursuit to stop this facility.  He neglected to mention that he has lost in every court challenge he pursued against the County and me.  Including His appeal to the 4th district appellate court. The channel 8 report allowed Mr. Gonzales to make personal attacks and name calling "journalism".  I would hope you not travel down this path. No further comments at this time.

Note that our story does not have any inaccuracies.  There are links for every fact. We did make clear in our story that Halcon won his cases against Gonzales.  Halcon might have chosen to answer specific questions or do a phone interview, but declined. He could have provided contact for his attorney for us to speak with, but did not.