Nevada State Parks budgeted for major enhancements during 2017 Legislature |

Nevada State Parks budgeted for major enhancements during 2017 Legislature

by Geoff Dornan

A new 1,200-acre state recreation area along the Walker River is one of the projects proposed for the next two years, according to Conservation and Natural Resources Director Brad Crowell.

Crowell told lawmakers on Wednesday Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget includes $13.6 million in enhancements for state parks during the biennium.

He said most of that money will go to Sandoval’s initiatives to add two new parks and provide more amenities and rehabilitation for existing parks.

The biggest project will turn three historic ranches along the Walker River into a more than 1,200-acre state recreational area.

The state has obtained ownership of the Pitchfork, Rafter 7, Flying M and Nine Mile ranches. Converting them into a new major park and recreation area will cost some $7.95 million.

Pitchfork and Rafter 7 will get five full-time employees and two seasonal positions along with equipment, rest rooms, picnic tables and the construction of rental cabins and campgrounds. Flying M and Nine Mile will get six employees, two seasonal positions and equipment ranging from tools to signs.

In addition, the governor has proposed more than $1.3 million for the new Tule Springs state park. That funding will not only pay for two staff and two seasonal positions but administrative costs, vehicles, interpretive displays, parking, an interpretive center, rest rooms and other amenities.

Crowell said existing parks will get added hook-up and pull-through campsites, rental cabins and equestrian facilities as well as wi-fi.

That last item drew an objection from Assemblywoman Heidi Swank who said one of the reasons she goes to parks is to get away from wi-fi and cell phone service.

“I’m not a fan of wi-fi in state parks,” she said.

Deputy Conservation/Natural Resources Director Jim Lawrence said, “I appreciate the sentiment.”

He said, however, the wi-fi doesn’t have to be park-wide, that it could be “hot spot,” available only in certain areas.

The plan also includes major rehabilitation of buildings and other amenities at Fort Churchill in Western Nevada for $1.2 million.

Altogether, state parks will get 28 more employees, nine of them added staff at existing parks.

The total state and non-state budget for parks is more than $30 million for the biennium.