The Carson City Open Space Advisory Committee unanimously approved the department’s preliminary budget priorities and work plan for the next fiscal year at the Feb. 21 committee meeting, paving the way for large projects at Buzzy’s Ranch and Prison Hill.
According to Open Space Manager Lyndsey Boyer, the estimated sales tax revenue for quality-of-life funding is projected to dip from roughly $1.6 million to $1.4 million for the next fiscal year. However, the open space department routinely comes in under budget, and, unlike the city general fund, open space revenue rolls over every year. For example, going into the next fiscal year, the department has $3.4 million in undesignated funds.
Boyer said that rollover amount can be used like a rainy-day fund should an economic downturn materialize in the future. While the amount could go toward more land acquisition, Boyer said since 2015, the department has shifted its focus from land acquisition to maintenance and management of current lands — more than 7,000 acres under the city’s open space program.
On Feb. 21, the advisory committee supported staff’s recommendations to hire an additional full-time open space maintenance worker with an annual salary between roughly $33,000 and $56,000. Boyer said the department could also split costs for a new park ranger, something the parks and recreation department would like as well.
“I think we’ve been behind as far as staffing is concerned, and this will bring us closer to where we need to be,” Boyer told the Appeal on Monday.
Keeping up with current projects is challenging enough, but the department also has new projects lining up.
Case in point: the open space work plan approved by the committee Feb. 21 includes two new grants awarded through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Both grants will be presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval at their meeting Thursday.
The first grant for $1.9 million would require a $50,000 local match and would be used to purchase 694 acre-feet of water rights from Vidler Water Co., to irrigate the central wetlands section of Buzzy’s Ranch.
Buzzy’s Ranch was purchased in two phases from State of Nevada Question 1 money (passed in 2002) in 2007 and 2010. The city’s acquisition cost more than $7 million, but there wasn’t enough money at the time to purchase water rights, Boyer said. Rather, the city entered into an agreement where the seller would use their water rights for continued agricultural use.
“We also recognize we, as a city, should have more of a long-term sustainable solution,” Boyer said.
Boyer said the new grant will purchase enough rights to irrigate about a third of the property, specifically waterfowl wetlands enhanced by Ducks Unlimited in 2016. Boyer said irrigation is important for multiple reasons: to control noxious weeds, to provide wildlife habitat and to preserve the legacy of agriculture in Eagle Valley.
Going forward, Boyer said the department will consider other grants and ways to fund water rights for the remainder of the property. Some areas may be restored to native, dryland vegetation, she said.
“We’re kind of looking at all different options and figuring out the best solution for the ranch,” she said.
The second grant is for $2.4 million, with no match required, and would fund the Prison Hill West Project. This would include a new trailhead at Koontz Lane with restrooms and other amenities, and about 2.5 miles of trail south to the boundary of the off-highway-vehicle recreation area near Snyder Avenue.
Boyer said the trail is part of a greater, accessible, multi-use trail originally planned to encompass the base of Prison Hill.
“Planning goes back to 1996,” she said, mentioning the current trails on the east side of Prison Hill.
Boyer said the new section of trail will require design and due diligence, and construction won’t start this year.
For information about the city trail system and open space areas, visit https://www.carson.org/government/departments-g-z/parks-recreation-open-space.
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