Clark County proposes Spring Mountains land swap with feds

Clark County wants to do a land swap with the federal government.

County officials want to give up the county’s 4.12 acres at Lee Meadows in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. In exchange, they want the title to Camp Lee Canyon from the U.S. Forest Service. The move would help prevent fee increases that have been put in place for the camp.

Commissioner Larry Brown also said the county’s property, which is surrounded by Forest Service land, is best managed by the federal agency. It is a popular sledding and picnicking spot. Brown said it is known for “extreme sledding.”

It was the site of a sledding accident that killed an 11-year-old girl on New Year’s Day.

For the land exchange to happen, federal law would need to be changed. Federal restrictions prohibit the service from making the exchange. Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to send a letter to the congressional delegation asking for support in making the exchange a reality.

The county has a long history dating to 1963 at Camp Lee Canyon, a 17-acre area that it has used for day trips and overnight camping activities. Last year, more than 15,000 people used the campground for various activities, said county parks and recreation Director Jane Pike.

Meanwhile, federal legislation passed in 2003 has changed the fee system for organizational camps that operate on national forest system land. That change has increased the fees from $300 to more than $5,000.

At the same time, the county has continued to invest in the camp property, also providing staff for maintenance. It has remodeled the kitchen, put in a challenge rope course and matched the U.S. Forest Service’s contribution, chipping in $1 million for a new water system.

The county’s maintenance coordinator is the water master for the new system. The federal agency isn’t charged for that service. By having the title, the county would avoid the fee increases, which affect the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and faith-based groups.

“We feel a trade would be in the best interests of both parties,” said Brown, whose district encompasses that area.

The trade wouldn’t affect the county’s costs of upkeep and staffing the camp, which is already in place, Pike said.

Brown noted that the county’s 4.12 acres on Mount Charleston is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s master plan. Giving the federal government the land would allow the agency to have a consistent master plan, he said.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.