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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