Plenty to be thankful for in Douglas County |

Plenty to be thankful for in Douglas County

by Jim Slade

Douglas County residents have much to be thankful for, as always. We live in a great community, surrounded by incredible natural beauty.We benefit from a very good quality of life here, no matter how you choose to define that, despite the challenging economic conditions of the last few years.We enjoy extensive open space, and a plethora of recreational opportunities, including world-class skiing, a terrific trails system, outstanding fishing and biking, to name just a few.We have recently been reminded of another important factor for which we should be thankful: the on-going legacy of the Bently family, the county’s largest private land owner. The late Don Bently was an iconic figure in the Carson Valley. He was an internationally renowned engineer, inventor and businessman. Bently Nevada, started here in 1961, was a pioneering firm in the design of machine monitoring.It was also one of Douglas County’s largest private employers, employing around 1,200 people locally when it was sold to GE in 2002.Bently Nevada, however, was only a portion of Don Bently’s holdings and interests. He also formed Bently Agrowdynamics on some of his extensive agricultural properties, Bently Pressurized Bearing and Bently Biofuels.He was dedicated to education, as well, which led him to donate land to Western Nevada College.Perhaps his greatest gift to Douglas County, though, was his conservation ethic, helping to preserve thousands of acres in the Carson Valley. His desire to save the natural environment led him to place conservation easements on several sizeable parcels, including the Kirman Tract, with its beautiful trail system. We all benefit from the extensive open space that Don Bently has preserved.That is why we should all be thankful that Christopher Bently, Don’s son and heir, plans to continue his father’s legacy. The recent Record-Courier article (Nov. 2) was certainly encouraging in the perspective it gave on Chris Bently’s future plans for the Bently lands here in the Carson Valley. When asked about plans for the approximately 40,000 acres of agricultural land he now owns, Chris said: “I don’t want to build a single thing on a piece of our land.” How great is that?Chris went on to say that he is not a fan of urban sprawl and that his personal goal is to keep that from happening here.Regarding his overall view of development and the economy, he stated: “I don’t see how you could be looking for development, housing or commercial, to fix economic woes.” How refreshing!He seems to have learned the lessons of Douglas County’s (and Nevada’s) latest boom & bust in residential building: that this is not a viable route to sustainable economic vitality, and that we need a more diverse economy in order to flourish. Chris does believe, however, in infill, and redeveloping some of Bently’s existing downtown properties. This is something that most people support, and would help re-vitalize our towns. Meanwhile he is pursuing organic certification on most of Bently Agrowdynamics lands. This could well benefit not only Bently lands, but all Carson Valley agriculture, and its “brand.” It certainly benefits all of us if the entire ag community continues to do well. So we thank Chris Bently for renewing his family’s commitment to preservation and conservation of their agricultural holdings. If we could get the valley’s second biggest land owner, the Park family, to embrace the same ethos, then we could all have increased confidence that the Carson Valley we know and love, the values, the open space and the rural character that drew most of us here to begin with, would continue for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the Douglas County Lands Bill and other efforts to fund conservation easements will help make that possible. We can always hope.