Closing state parks could damage Douglas economy | NevadaAppeal.com

Closing state parks could damage Douglas economy

by Kurt Hildebrand
Nevada Appeal News Service

As the home to three of Nevada’s State Parks, Douglas County would be seriously affected by a proposal to shutter them to save money.

Wednesday’s Las Vegas Sun reported that Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford suggested closing the parks as a means to save $8 million during the course of the two-year budget.

Douglas County is home to part of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, which includes Nevada Beach, Cave Rock and Spooner Lake, Mormon Station State Historic Park in Genoa and the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.

Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Chernock said the damage caused by closing the parks will be greater than any savings the state received.

“At first glance, it could be enormous,” he said of the effect on the county’s economy. “In an area like Douglas County, almost inevitably the longterm costs of lost jobs and lost revenues far exceed any short term savings typically gained by reducing staffing and access to state parks.”

Nevada Division of State Parks Administrator David K. Morrow said Lake Tahoe is one of the state’s two largest parks.

“Which of the parks pay their own way?” Morrow asked. “None of them do. The two biggest parks, Lake Tahoe and Valley of Fire, come the closest of the set.”

Both Mormon Station and Dangberg state parks operate seasonally.

Mormon Station is connected with a number of events in Genoa, including Candy Dance, Pops in the Park and this year’s Cowboy Poetry Festival.

Morrow said the difficulty of closing Nevada’s parks is that there isn’t any way to keep people out.

“There’s no physical way to close them,” he said. “You can lock up the buildings, shutter the windows, but essentially the majority of the park is still open to the public.”

Morrow said closing the parks could end up requiring others taking on the state’s role.

“There would be nobody there to deal with sanitation, no services,” he said. “Take Lahontan, which is a pretty wild area anyway, if we were no longer there to operate it, people would still use it, but there would be nobody there to operate the site. Lyon County would end up having to care for it.”

Morrow said the benefits of Nevada’s parks have been confirmed by two economic studies.

The parks cost the state

$5 million a year, but studies conducted in 2003 and 2007 revealed the parks generate $60 million a year for the state.

“One reporter I talked to this morning said it sounded like bending over a quarter to pick up a nickel,” Morrow said. “I think that pretty much sums it up.”