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Go West, Carson City, for hidden wilderness beauty

Sam Bauman

If you’ve always thought the hills west of Carson City were so much sage and manzanita brush, you need to take a ride with Juan Guzman, our city’s indefatigable open spaces manager. We had a chance to do that with Guzman recently along with two other members of the Parks and Recreation Commission Glenn Tierney and Rich Wontoski.

Guzman was taking one of his regular inspection trips of the lands back there and invited us along. He’s a veteran of land management, and at 54 is married with two children and a wife who works as a city planner in South Lake Tahoe.

Before we started he showed us a very colorful map – all green, yellow, red and blue blotches, overlaid on an aerial photo in back and white. The yellow marked open space opportunities; brown Bureau of Land Management owned land; green, U.S. Forest Service lands; and blue, Carson City owned areas. There’s a big space in the center that marks federal lands.

The colors make a jigsaw pattern on the oversized map, with blue and green perhaps the largest areas – not contiguous, but that’s what Guzman is trying to accomplish a limited budget. He gets help from many private conservation foundations and by trading land with public entities.

We started out touring the uplands in a Parks and Recreation four-wheeler. The roads here are varied, some paved, others torture for a two-wheel drive.

We quickly became accustomed to very steep, rocky pitches that had us hanging on to the sissy bars. We didn’t go to the top of Kings Canon at Spooner Summit; the road is barely passable with brush protruding on the road.

Our first run was along the Kings Canyon Road, going through a big patch of Forest Service land, then slipped into land belonging to the Fagen family, three big chunks of it. We climbed, passing a junction with the Voltaire Canyon Road

All along the way, Guzman would stop and point out our location the big map. His comments ranged from, “This is a piece that we’ve got our eyes on,” to, “This is one we worked a trade with the BLM over and came out ahead financially.

“But that was back when we first started the open space program. We don’t want to make money trading parcels. That was back when we got money through the Question 18 vote.”

Question 18 asked voters in 1996 if they would approve a quarter of 1 percent for open lands acquisition. They did, and something like $2.5 million flows into the program annually: 40 percent for new parks, 40 percent for new land buys and 20 percent for maintenance.

Guidelines for buying open space land includes:

• Management care of the land.

• Is it suitable for recreation?

• Does it offer a scenic view that is unique and an attraction that people can reach?

• What kind of fire risks doe it have?

• Does it have a drainage problem? Does its drainage threaten developed areas in case of heavy rain?

All that Guzman can recite off the top of his head as we followed the rough four-wheel drive roads. Do not think of driving the four-wheel roads in a two-wheeler. If you want a map of the area, call Parks and Rec Commission and ask for Guzman. We’ve seen no map that lays out all the four-wheel roads in the area as well.

We backtracked to the junction with the Voltaire Canyon Road and followed that over sharp hills and wooded areas, back to the city proper before taking another road up through Ash Canyon and through a locked gate (Guzman had a key) to Lakeside Village.

To say that the ride was eye-opening is an understatement. Some of the beauty is rugged, dry but still dotted with flowers. There’s a lot more to open spaces programs that residents should know about, but for now we just wanted to share some of the vistas we saw.

Take a look and check the Jeep before loading it up with the family and water jugs. Yes, there’s a beautiful camp site up there, but no fires of any kind. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should get you through one night, sleeping under the stars. See you there.

• Contact Sam Bauman at 881-1236 or at Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com