ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Central Florida Archery off Apopka Vineland Road has been told to shut down after a complaint revealed it was illegally operating as a business in a residential neighborhood.
The archery range has been closed for a week, said owner Hendrick Gouws.
"All we've ever tried to do here is try to do the right thing," he said. All we've ever tried to do is teach archery."
The county received two complaints regarding archery activity on the property on Sully Drive, which is not zoned for a business. An outdoor club on A-1 zoned property usually requires a special exception approval through the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
Gouws admitted he was unaware of the restriction.
"I just want to make it right," he said. "If that's the case, I made a mistake and I apologize and I want to make it right."
The complaint also accused Gouws of owning "Mexican fighting chickens," which he disputes.
"The chickens are living in the Taj Mahal," Gouws said of the setup where a handful of chickens live on his property. "There's no fighting. Anyone that fights chickens is the most immoral human being that lives."
Now, archers and their families are rallying to keep the range open. They have more than 1,000 signatures on a petition so far on Change.org.
The range has brought Ronda Olson and her three children closer together since it opened a few years ago.
"It's heartbreaking to think of this place closing down," she said. "There is not another range anywhere near our home. We would have to drive 40-45 minutes."
Rob McCalip hopes to see his son compete in the 2024 Olympics thanks to Gouws' guidance. The teen currently practices on a 70-meter range.
"Hopefully, we can save this range," he said. "Henrick Gouws is a wonderful person."
Gouws plans to speak with the proper county and zoning officials Wednesday and begin the process of seeking a special exception for his business. The range will be closed in the meantime.