Historic preservation 8-year plan announced

After 14 months of public meetings and surveys, state officials say urban growth is the biggest threat to preservation of Nevada's history.

Historic Preservation Office Planner Alice Baldrica said the public has repeatedly made it clear in those hearings that it wants historic houses and buildings, village sites, rock art and other elements of the state's past saved.

The eight-year plan released this past week lays out some of their achievements over the past eight years. But the document also points to several cases of serious and, too often, deliberate destruction of Nevada's heritage - most prominently the Mapes Hotel in Reno.

"The Mapes became the only National Trust-designated endangered property ever destroyed when it was imploded on Super Bowl Sunday in 2000," the document states.

That implosion was ordered by the city of Reno, and, to date, the property remains vacant.

In addition, the report says, the George Wingfield Mansion in Reno - also on the National Register - was lost to arson in 2002, and the Virginia Street Bridge and Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium were threatened with destruction.

In Las Vegas, The Whitehead House was lost to arson in 2000, as was the Moulin Rouge, a national register property and Las Vegas's first integrated casino.

The biggest problem facing historic preservation efforts is the lack of funding. For that reason, the preservation plan calls on the 2005 Nevada Legislature to renew the $20 million in bonds for historic projects set to expire this year. That money can be used to fund preservation of historic buildings used as cultural centers.

Much of the plan is directed toward public education efforts and developing support for preservation efforts.

Members of the public surveyed during development of the plan repeatedly blamed growth pressures for destruction of historic sites in urban areas. Outside cities, the culprits are increasing vandalism to rock art and historic mining features and illegal artifact hunting. All-terrain vehicles are blamed by many for providing much more extensive access to previously remote sites.

The plan points out growth is creating more intensive use of public lands, and most newcomers have no real knowledge of the state and its history. It urges redoubling of efforts to educate residents about their state, its past and the fragile nature and importance of preserving features from rock art and pioneer trails to mining sites and historic properties.

The plan pledges to expand the state's network of organizations and individuals engaged in historic preservation and to put more sites and properties on the National Register to protect them and to raise money for restoration.


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