Carson City’s wild west side
Appeal Staff Writer
It’s not difficult to find varying opinions about Carson City’s open-space program.
The operation was created after voters approved a one-quarter cent sales tax for it.
“I think the open space around and within Carson City is what helps makes the town what it is,” said Anne Macquarie, a west-side resident and president of Muscle Powered: Citizens for a Bikable and Walkable Carson City. This private, nonprofit organization promotes bike-and-pedestrian-friendly policies, roadways and development efforts.
“Personally, I use the city’s open space a lot,” Macquarie said. “I can walk out my front door, away from my home and get to the edge of the desert – all without getting into my car. That’s valuable to me.”
That the city values open space is a positive attribute that should make it more attractive to potential new business enterprise and residents, and help save taxpayers money if the land is managed efficiently, she said, so that fire fuels and other hazards are reduced.
“We’re always thinking about our economic situation,” Macquarie said. “We have to remain a town where people want to move to.”
The tax OK’d in 1996 called Question 18, the Quality-of-Life Initiative, also funds parks and recreation improvements and maintenance on those facilities created under the open space program.
“The Question 18 tax passed almost 11 years ago,” said John Wagner, another west-side resident. “Was there a sunset clause? How long does it continue to keep going?”
Wagner has seen deer, coyotes and other animals wander around his property – and the number of animals continues to grow. While he enjoys seeing animals, he exercises caution whenever he takes his dog for a walk. He also watched anxiously as the Waterfall fire stopped only one-half mile from his property near Ash Canyon.
“I feared for my neighbors. I saw fire on their fences,” Wagner remembered.
How the city will take care of land it acquires is important to him: Will the city be able to afford proper upkeep in the future? What will happen if it can’t?
Two recent west-side land deals helped complete a land management puzzle that would provide open space, preserve passive recreational uses and help the city better control its water resources, and reduce fire and flood risks, said Juan Guzman, the city’s open-space manager.
The 320-acre Swafford property was sold to the U.S. Forest Service for $2.3 million. The city helped the transaction by taking out owner-initiated improvements, such as a wood cabin, septic system and well because the federal government couldn’t buy it with those amenities. This cost the city about $30,000.
The city requested funds for the property in the upper area of Kings Canyon Road. It’s home to many sensitive species, used as a feeding area for deer during warm months, and will allow better public access to the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and optimal views to the west. The Forest Service paid for it with money from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.
Located south of the Swafford site is the 40-acre Hutchison property, east of the Horse Creek Ranch. The city paid $400,000 for the land. Nearly $300,000 of that cost will be covered by the state’s Question 1 fund, also known as the Conservation and Resource Protection Grant Program. This state source is used to acquire open space, waterways and wildlife habitat, and to improve parks, recreational areas, historic and cultural resources.
It’s considered a feasible site for a pedestrian trail that would lead to a vista where people can see Washoe, Eagle and Carson valleys, Guzman said.
The open space program is “intended mainly to preserve the natural landscape, and certain types of passive recreation, such as hiking, running, bicycling and horseback riding. Recreational facilities in open space areas are typically limited to trails and supporting picnic areas, interpretive facilities, restrooms and parking lots,” according to master plan completed for the program in June 2000.
It’s not a fast-track program, though sometimes it is faster for the city to make a deal with a private land owner focusing on quick sale than it is for the state and federal government.
At any rate, “we’re cautious. We want to make sure when we buy land it’s been reviewed by the Open Space Advisory Committee, Board of Supervisors, and any other groups that might be concerned,” Guzman said.
That could include the Carson River Advisory Committee, Board to Manage Wildlife, or “whoever might have something to say.”
This long-term view is what will make the area economically viable long term. A community with a lot to offer is the key to economic strength, according to the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a two-edged sword,” said Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the chamber. “We have so little usable land, but there’s also a quality-of-life issue.”
Many businesses look at that. That means parks, recreation, the community college, a variety of businesses and retailers “and such things as open space.”
“It’s basically for the good of the public,” she added.
Carson City’s Open Space Program is considering acquisitions on the west side, which could include:
• Masonic Lodge property, 80 acres located at entrance to Ash Canyon, for recreation and public access
• Joost property, 80 acres near entrance to Ash Canyon, near Wellington Crescent
• Serpa property, about 200 acres west of Timberline Drive, near Vicee Canyon
• Long property, 200 acres near the “waterfall road” at Kings Canyon.
• The city’s open-space program also will continue focusing primarily on preserving the Carson River Corridor and the city’s irrigated farm land.
Federal lands bill
• Citywide land management changes also are being sought through the proposed federal lands bill. The Board of Supervisors approved a version of it in December for consideration by federal representatives.
• Roughly 2,700 acres of wildland on the west side alone might be turned over to the federal government because of the high cost to reduce fire fuels on them. The state would like a portion of the land to use as a park. All this hinges on how federal legislators want to proceed.
• The federal government manages more than 85 percent of Nevada’s 110,000 square miles. Federal land on the city’s west side is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service. On the east side it’s managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. There are state-controlled sections, too.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.