Saturday, December 3, 2022

Colonial Williamsburg scores a bullseye, ax-throwing target range approved

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has submitted a proposal to the city’s zoning board to construct a "tomahawk/axe throwing range" in the Historic Area at the old military encampment site at 311 East Nicholson Street.. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has submitted a proposal to the city’s zoning board to construct a “tomahawk/axe throwing range” in the Historic Area at the old military encampment site at 311 East Nicholson Street.. (Courtesy Google Maps)

Colonial Williamsburg will soon be offering guests one more unique attraction.

The City of Williamsburg’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to approve the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s proposal to open a “tomahawk/axe throwing range” Tuesday.

According to the application, as many as eight guests at a time “will receive safety instructions and historical interpretations about the construction, use and history of tomahawk throwing in the 18th century.”

The lesson will end with the chance to throw an ax at “poplar tree round targets,” which will have a 10-foot safety net behind them that will extend 20 feet to either side.

Neil Ellwein, Director of Architecture and Engineering at the foundation, spoke about the proposal before the board. He listed safety precautions the foundation is taking to prevent injury during use of the axes.

In addition to the safety net, the ax-throwing range will be fenced off to prevent guests from unknowingly wandering into the target area. Two foundation employees will be stationed at the range to supervise guests, and all guests will be required to throw on cue.

“We did a site visit and my main concern was safety,” said Michael Jallo, member of the Board of Zoning Appeals. “But Mr. Ellwein was there and he allayed all those concerns, showed us where everything is going to go…I have no issues with this proposal.”

Additionally, children younger than 12 will not be permitted in the range, and those between 12 and 17 will need a legal guardian present. All guests will need to sign a waiver.

Pete Siebert, executive director of the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg, also spoke to the board. He said Colonial Williamsburg has looked at the changing tourism market and determined guests want to have more experiences, rather than passive involvement, during their trips to the Revolutionary City.

“This is probably about the most unusual request you’ve had today, in terms of something that’s a little bit different,” Siebert chuckled when presenting the proposal.  “[Throwing axes] wasn’t a military endeavor…This was really a sport. It was something they did to pass their time.”

Siebert added the proposal was born in part by the success of Colonial Williamsburg’s musket range.

“One of the interesting things about the musket range for us was the appeal is not for people who shoot, it’s for people who’ve never shot,” Siebert said.

Siebert also said that throwing axes accurately requires skill, which guests will attempt to learn and practice throughout their time at the range.

“This is a historical experience. It’s not a tournament championship,” Siebert said. “We’re hoping there will be success and people will really enjoy it.”

Siebert said he hopes the range will open in July.

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