Who should clean up Summerlin Parkway?

Summerlin Parkway has always been viewed as one of the crown jewels of roadways in all of Las Vegas. It’s a scenic highway lined with beautiful foliage and centered in some locations by magnificent, towering royal palms that serve as a majestic welcoming spectacle for motorists entering Summerlin.

It’s also the freeway that has provided strong impetus for the development of Summerlin into a highly desirable sector of the city — with no smugness intended. Few who live in these parts would argue that the 6-mile parkway which connects U.S. 95 with the 215 Beltway is an artery most vital to the continued growth of Summerlin.

Ever since the first stages of the parkway were opened during the early 1990s, it had constantly been well manicured and maintained with care, in keeping with the general character of all of Summerlin. But if you drove the road on a regular basis this past summer, you saw sectors that were anything but the pristine freeway that had once been the hallmark of Summerlin Parkway.

Indeed, along certain stretches of the thoroughfare you saw the kind of evidence that might have been more endemic of the entrance to a garbage dump. That’s because trash of all kinds — broken bags of landscape litter, tall weeds and general neglect — had distorted much of the roadway’s beauty.

It had gotten so out of hand that a phone call to a spokesman for the city was necessary to inquire why the crown jewel had been allowed to disintegrate into such a clutter. After all, the city owns Summerlin Parkway. Thus you would expect its maintenance to be the absolute responsibility of the city of Las Vegas, right? Well, maybe not so fast, we learned.

The question I posed was a very simple one. Had the city run out of money, unable to afford the proprietary care of so valuable a thoroughfare as Summerlin Parkway?

“I’ll find out what’s going on and get back to you,” promised Jace Radke, the city’s very capable spokesman. He did find out, and he did get back to me, and perhaps therein lies a perplexing tale of custodial responsibility involving one of the more beautiful highways of America.

But first things first. Yes, Summerlin Parkway eventually got tidied up. Radke explained that “a misdemeanor crew” would be picking up the trash and removing weeds.

Whether it was the phone call from this corner that precipitated the cleanup or just some coincidence, no one can say for sure.

One thing is for certain, however. After the buildup for many weeks and perhaps many months of trash and tall weeds along much of Summerlin Parkway, the situation was finally reversed.

Ward 2 City Councilman Bob Beers attempted to provide some answers during the height of the mess along the parkway’s shoulders.

“We recently hired a new contractor,” Beers said. “I saw the deterioration. There was a failure by the former contractor to perform.”

Beers also promised to see to it that the parkway would again be viewed as the pride of Summerlin.

In fairness to the city, however, it turns out that the litter, the weed harvest and the unkempt conditions affecting portions of the parkway cannot be laid exclusively at the feet of City Hall, irrespective of the fact that the road is owned by the municipality.

Things get a little more complex. For whatever the reasons, there are other principals in the picture.

As mentioned earlier, Radke promised to “find out what’s going on.” And in accordance with his findings, we learned that portions of Summerlin Parkway, depending on the location, are under the custodial supervision of one of the Summerlin Master Associations. There are three such associations that help manage Summerlin — Summerlin North, Summerlin West and Summerlin South. In addition, the Nevada Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining a portion.

But that’s not all. It gets even more bureaucratic. The city’s responsibility, based on location and type of custodial care, such as “landscape only maintenance” as opposed to “non-irrigated landscape areas,” is maintained by either the Parks and Open Spaces Division or the Streets and Sanitation Division.

Maybe Beers said it best: “It’s an interesting patchwork.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, “All For Nothing,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.