Fallon lakes considered for open space
Soda Lake and Little Soda Lake are one of two places in North America where underwater calcite towers form. California’s Mono Lake is the other location where highly mineralized water creates towers.
A group of volunteers would like to keep the two lakes about 10 minutes from Fallon open for public enjoyment. `
Churchill County commissioners voted recently to pursue the Soda Lake area as open space because of its uniqueness.
Commission Chairwoman Gwen Washburn said she has a photograph of her great-grandparents picnicking at the lake.
“As the community grows, it is important to have open space, and this is a very important natural area,” she said. “It behooves the county to pursue that for the community.”
Commissioner Norm Frey used to swim in Soda Lake. He said there are options besides purchase if the county acquires the property.
Jim Moore, county parks and recreation director, said that so far the county only owns one 20-acre parcel on the north shore of Little Soda.
County resident Andree Gill, who organizes cleanups at Soda Lake, joined a group of about 10 to support the proposal at the meeting. The Soda Lake area has been the focus of many cleanups, some involving up to 100 people.
“I thought it was great,” she said of the commissioners’ vote.
The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District owns much of the Soda Lake property and a few small parcels around Little Soda. Other owners are the Bureau of Land Management, the county and private owners.
TCID has had offers to buy its land, but it has held off. Rumors have circulated that a subdivision was planned for the area.
Soda Lake began as a soda mine, which was flooded after the Newlands Reclamation project started opening ditches in the early 20th century. All of the mining equipment is still there, along with the mine pit, and scuba-diving groups investigate them.
Moore said the mine site should be designated as an historic site. The only thing keeping that from happening is divers haven’t been able to map it yet.
Although the commission voiced support for official open space at Soda Lake, that doesn’t mean action was taken. The board has made it clear that the county cannot afford to buy any land, though it has considered swapping land with TCID.
The board directed the parks and recreation director and county planning department to pursue designating Soda Lake as open space. That could involve using Question 1 money.
Voters approved Question 1 on the last state ballot. It allocates $65.5 million to qualifying agencies for protecting and preserving natural resources using state grants.
Bill Adams, who lives on Lucas Road, said Soda Lake is the one area where all users – from the off-roaders to equestrians – seem to get along.
“I would encourage you to pursue this,” he said. “We’d welcome being a part of it,” he told the board.