Waiting for the boom
Appeal Staff Writer
She expected it, developers expected it, newspapers expected it and most of all, Virginia Johnson said, the people who moved there expected it.
But it, the explosion of growth in the community of Silver Springs, never happened.
“It was like a modern-day pioneer move,” said Johnson, who came to Silver Springs as a teenager with her family in 1951, a year after the site 35 miles east of Carson City was founded.
“People who came out here believed in the assets that were here,” she said, “(like) the lake (Lahontan), Fort Churchill and our wonderful open spaces for rock climbing, hunting and all this great stuff. They felt that this was going to be a great tourist attraction someday and they wanted that.”
While the community of about 5,000 people, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 95A, didn’t grow nearly as big as residents thought it would, that could change.
Land is cheap, people are moving east, and, one of the biggest reasons people might move to the community – an 18-mile parkway connecting Interstate 80 and Highway 50 near Silver Springs is expected to open in the next few years.
The road, USA Parkway, will run through the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, possibly sending a near-constant stream of trucks past the community and creating a demand for housing for workers at the center. It will also put Silver Springs at about a half-hour drive from Reno.
The center, whose land covers over half of neighboring Storey County, will be the largest industrial park in the world.
The conditions, said Ron Weisinger, executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, will cause the community to add business and residents.
He said development east of Carson City and west of Silver Springs – in Mound House, Dayton, Mark Twain and Stagecoach – are what Silver Springs would eventually see anyway, and USA Parkway will add to that as drivers begin to use it to cut two hours off a round trip from the industrial park to Las Vegas.
“Silver Springs will grow,” Weisinger said. “Silver Springs is the next hot spot.”
George Peek, president of Valley Realty & Investments, a prominent developer that owns about 2,000 acres of land in the Silver Springs area, said the fast growth could quickly make it bigger than any of the other towns east of Carson City.
He said while growth is slow right now with most people buying two-to-five-acre plots rather than homes in subdivisions, the parkway will change things with help from facilities already in place, such as the Silver Springs Airport.
Don Allen, owner of the community’s water company, said once the parkway is done, “I think Silver Springs busts loose.”
This is what Merle Peek, George Peek’s father and one the owners of the founding Silver Springs Land Co., expected. In 1950s promotional literature, the company called the area “The Crossroads of Opportunity.”
But problems could delay growth.
For instance, while the average price of a home in Silver Springs is about $150,000 – compared to about $240,000 in Dayton, $275,000 in Carson City and nearly $300,000 in the Reno-Sparks area – many of the sales in Silver Springs were for less expensive residences, such as manufactured homes. Those, and home sales in general, are going to go up once more development happens.
Miles Ottenheimer, a representative with the industrial park, said he expects “a little bit of a land rush” once the parkway opens will drive up land prices. The industrial park is expanding as needed, too, he said, so the parkway does not have a specific date it will be done.
Also, some Silver Springs residents aren’t excited about the growth. While the original group that moved to the area wanted the area to expand, many who live there now enjoy the openness and lack of development.
“Many of us out there, let’s face it, would like to keep it rural,” said Lyon County Commissioner Larry McPherson, whose district includes Silver Springs.
Some don’t like feeling crowded, he said, and think other former rural towns like Dayton have become “saturated.”
He added, however, that in about 10 years, residents will see a significant change whether they want to or not.
“It’s going to build,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”
In 1957, one of the biggest newspapers at the time, the Nevada State Journal, predicted what many are anticipating now.
“Big Future,” it promised.
“Boom Being Forecast,” it said.
“Probably not until the 1980s,” Virginia Johnson said, “did someone say, ‘You know what? I don’t think it’s going to happen here.'”
But even though the reasons for people coming to Silver Springs are different now and even though she’s watched the initial excitement of 1950s community work parties fall into a sudden realization decades later, she said she still gets excited when new families and businesses move to town and she knows there will be more.
“I still have that dream,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I can hope.”
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
On the Net
• Silver Springs Chamber of Commerce
• Silver Springs Airport
• Short history of Silver Springs
• Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center