Standing on a dusty road overlooking the Carson River, members of two Carson City committees Monday looked at land gracing the river's edge.
The Carson River and Open Space advisory committees have different purposes when it comes to the Carson River. But when it comes to protecting the land along the river, they need each other's help.
The two groups got together Monday to tour river land offered as open space parcels. They also began discussions of how to use their combined resources to decide which of the 13 river parcels have the most potential utility.
Most of the parcels under discussion are on the east side of Prison Hill along the Mexican Dam Road. It's a secluded part of Carson City, perhaps the biggest threat to the land, houses. But several of the parcels abut one another and to the north, the Silver Saddle Ranch. Controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, planning for public use of the ranch is almost complete.
The other parcel is the Anderson Ranch along Carson River Road. The parcel has been considered by the BLM for purchase before, but the family who owns the property hasn't wanted to sell the riverfront ranch, although it has been offered as an open space acquisition.
The two advisory committees may decide the parcels have enough of a connectivity potential with their location near the ranch to be an open space benefit. In their three-hour meeting Monday, open space committee members opted to lean on the Carson River Advisory committee for help determining which parcels should eventually be considered for open space.
"There's no reason to remake the wheel, you guys have already done it," said Steve Hartman, open space chairman. "CRAC has a master plan. They know what parts and pieces they need to help. Their knowledge is infinitely larger than ours."
Claire Clift, Carson River Advisory Committee member, said the committee's master plan looks at how properties affect wildlife and environmental resources, habitat issues, recreational access and creating contiguous pieces of public property, all goals similar to those of the open space committee.
"I think we need to study (the parcels) more and really see how they do fit," Clift said. "We need to sit down and look at what benefits can they give us other than the opportunity to get somewhere.
"The river is a huge priority for the Carson River Advisory Committee," she said. "It's nice to know it's a priority of the people of Carson City, too."
The Carson River was identified in the city's open space plan as the number one priority to protect.
At the same time the Carson River Advisory Committee begins looking at how the river parcels can serve the two committees, the BLM will look at how it can aid the two groups.
"We don't have the money to buy everybody out, so we have to try to figure out ways to maximize our bang for our buck," said Juan Guzman, city senior planner and an advisor to both committees.
Chuck Pope, BLM non-renewable resource manager, said there was a potential for the BLM to trade or sell public land to either trade or buy the open space parcels. The process, however, is time consuming, taking up to one or two years to complete.
The open space committee may consider in the future using some of their funds to do studies necessary for the BLM property trades and to convince property owners to commit their lands to open space during the time necessary for the BLM to ready things for a trade or purchase, Hartman said.
To be considered, open space parcels are run through a matrix which gives each parcel a level of priority in areas such as wildlife habitat, scenic quality, visibility, prime farmland or urgency, for example. The committee has surveyed several parcels, being offered a 77-acre hillside parcel and a 17-acre wetland parcel for almost no money.
The committee will only have about $700,000 a year to purchase open space land.
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.