Land wranglers trailblazed Carson City’s Open Space program

Hikers cut through Silver Saddle Ranch to access the Carson River Park. Carson City’s Open Space Department owns about 3,000 acres of contiguous land around the river, protecting the flood plain. (Photo: Faith Evans/Nevada Appeal)

Hikers cut through Silver Saddle Ranch to access the Carson River Park. Carson City’s Open Space Department owns about 3,000 acres of contiguous land around the river, protecting the flood plain. (Photo: Faith Evans/Nevada Appeal)

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It’s Quality of Life Month, and Carson City would have no reason to celebrate if it weren’t for the Open Space program. The 1996 Quality of Life Initiative passed a sales tax that gave birth to Open Space in 2000, and it’s quickly become an integral part of the city’s long-term Master Plan.
“It adds to the value of living in a community like this,” said Juan Guzman, the city’s first Open Space manager, during an in-person interview with the Appeal.
Guzman recalled defining the Open Space manager’s role from 2000-14, securing 14 combined acquisitions and easements.
“We had broad parameters for what (Open Space) was going to be. We just went ahead and started doing stuff, and it worked out really good,” he said, smiling.
Shortly after he started the job and hit the trails to get to know Carson City’s open lands, Guzman said that “something amazing happened.”
He met Jeff Potter.
Potter is the trails coordinator for Muscle Powered, a local biking and volunteering group, and he knows how to trailblaze – literally.
Though he was unable to speak with the Appeal, according to Adventure Sports Journal, Potter helped design and build seven miles worth of trails winding through Ash and Kings canyons.
It was a match made in heaven for Guzman. He needed someone who could build out the walkable, ridable network that he wanted to permit on Open Space properties.
“I said, ‘Jeff, this is awesome what you’re doing … we’re going to be best friends,’” Guzman said, recalling when he first met Potter. He joked with the Appeal that he became Potter’s “sugar daddy,” using his access to funding combined with Potter’s skills to implement improvements on Open Space lands.
Guzman’s friendship with Potter sparked a valuable partnership that’s still intact today: Muscle Powered and Open Space. The two groups often work together on trail beautification and cleanup projects throughout Carson City.

Larry Marinel and Johanna Foster entertained folks with cowboy poetry during Open Space’s Quality of Life Celebration at Silver Saddle Ranch on Oct. 29. (Photo: Faith Evans/Nevada Appeal)


It’s the kind of relationship that has become more valuable over time for Open Space, especially as the land that the department has to maintain continues to grow.
When the Omnibus Public Land Management Act passed in 2009, Carson City effectively doubled its Open Space acreage through a land exchange. Guzman saw the results of the act right before he retired. It gave the city about 3,000 acres of contiguous land protecting the flood plain along the Carson River, among other properties.
The act even carried some irony for Guzman. In previous years, he had helped Open Space purchase land near Prison Hill for $1 million, and in a unique turn of events, ended up selling it to the Bureau of Land Management for nearly double the price, according to Guzman. When the Lands Bill went into effect, the BLM gave the parcel back to Carson City for no cost beyond the land exchange agreement.
Guzman laughed that he’d unintentionally turned a profit on a land investment, much to the dismay of some of his colleagues.
Guzman and current Open Space Manager Lyndsey Boyer cite the Lands Bill as a huge win for Open Space. But Boyer, who’s been with Parks, Recreation and Open Space for almost five years, faces a new set of challenges.
“We have pretty much acquired most of the things that are critical for Open Space value. … We are very much transitioning into the maintenance chapter of (Open Space),” Boyer said in a phone interview with the Appeal.
Grooming trails, putting up signage, and constructing public facilities like restrooms are all eating up more of Open Space’s budget. Aside from a few key acquisitions that will complete Carson City’s Trails Master Plan, the focus is now on upkeep and enhancing public participation.
It’s a new kind of land wrangling job, with new challenges. Boyer and Guzman both look forward with optimism.
“How can we improve and enhance those spaces so that the public is having the best recreational opportunities that they can?” Boyer asked, explaining that this will be the question that shapes her time with Open Space.
Guzman said that he hopes the city will still try to thoughtfully acquire more land, but more so, he wants people to love Open Space as much as he does.
“This is part of our city, our heritage, and it’s here for us to enjoy,” he said. “Go jump on a bicycle and ride the heck out of it. Walk it. Take your dog and clean up after it.”
It takes a city’s worth of land wranglers to protect and enjoy Open Space.
Parks, Recreation and Open Space are hosting free and low-cost events throughout November to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Quality of Life Initiative that created Open Space. Currently scheduled:
• Fall Full Moon Hike at the V & T Trail, Friday, Nov. 19, 6-7:30 p.m.
• Free Pickleball Clinic at the Carson City Multipurpose Athletic Center, Saturday, Nov. 20, 9-11 a.m.
• Junior Park Ranger Day at Carson River Park, Saturday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Free Swim Day at the Carson Aquatic Facility, Saturday, Nov. 20, 12:30-4 p.m.
More details on each activity are available at


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