Open space plan finally approved |

Open space plan finally approved

Amanda Hammon

Three years in the making, Carson City’s new open space plan was approved Thursday.

Technicalities kept the plan from being heard by supervisors for more than two months, but it passed in a unanimous vote that brought cheers from open-space proponents.

“This is a really historic day for everyone in the community, a moment of real importance,” City Manager John Berkich said. “When I look back on my tenure with Carson City, this is one of the biggest points of pride of the things I’ve had a chance to be involved with.”

With a freshly approved plan in their hands, members of the open space advisory committee are ready to get to work. With about three years of preparation in the plan, members feel as if a lot of hard work has been spent already, but open space consultant Jeff Winston noted the real work is ahead of them.

“You’re not done,” Winston said. “You’re just about to begin. There will be times when you feel bogged down in details, but you are leaving a legacy to future generations. You won’t be sitting here when people realize how valuable it was. Little by little, brick by brick you will build this program. What you’re about (to do) is a really marvelous things.”

Winston presented the plan to supervisors noting that Carson’s planning was a collaborative effort between the city and volunteers. The plan, he said, should be used to preserve land that is significant to the city’s quality of life.

“Whether driving down Roop Street, Hot Springs Road or Mountain Street, there are elements of the natural setting that give Carson City its character. There are unique resources Carson City has that make it different from any other community.”

The plan calls for the protection of:

— Carson River corridor

— Hillsides visible from the city

— Working, irrigated ranches

— In-town trail corridors

— Trail corridors outside the city

The plan notes that residents want to preserve open space, to preserve hillsides from development, protect wildlife habitat and provide trails. It also specifies committee strategy for dealing with landowners, land preservation and protection tools and identifies a short- to long-term implementation plan.

Supervisors were pleased with the plan but expressed concerns that no permanent staff member would be working with the open space committee.

Carson resident Jay Meierdierck said while he supported the open space plan, the job of the committee was “to advise, not manage.”

“You wouldn’t start a planning study without an engineer, why is open space any different?” Meierdierck asked.

City staff from the parks and recreation and community development departments have fostered the plan’s development, but supervisors recommended the addition as soon as possible of a full-time open space staff member.

Committee vice-chairwoman Deborah Uhart said the committee was concerned with money and creating more bureaucracy, but wanted a full-time person as well.

“It’s very much a question of money for us,” Uhart said. “The last thing we want is for this to fail or for us to get bogged down. Nobody knows better than we do how overworked staff is. If you want us to take a look at hiring somebody to that position, we’ll certainly do so.”

Uhart said she was comfortable with the committee’s competence in managing the program for now. She said she’d like to get community comments on the hiring of a full-time staff member.

“If we didn’t have the committee we do or the talent we do, we wouldn’t feel as comfortably,” Uhart said. “I certainly don’t want to make this my second full-time job, though.”

The committee’s next step will be neighborhood meetings to ask residents specifically which parcels of neighborhood land should be considered for open space acquisition.

“We’re done with this part,” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Kastens said. “This gives us a plan to start from.”

Open space planning has been in the works since the passage of the Quality of Life initiative in 1996. Question 18 authorized a quarter of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund open space, parks and trails. The tax raises about $1.7 million a year with 40 percent going towards open space, 40 percent towards parks and 20 percent for maintenance of new park projects.

As of Jan. 1 about $1.6 million has been generated for open space use. The committee will have about $700,000 a year to purchase open space land.