Kiwanis feted for its foresight

Thirty-one years ago, members of the Las Vegas Kiwanis Club hooked up trailers to their vehicles and drove to Arizona, California and Utah to gather drought-tolerant plants.

Their trek was part of the Kiwanis and horticulturist Lloyd Rooke's vision of a park where Southern Nevadans could learn to landscape their homes in a way that conserves water. Drought-tolerant plants and drip irrigation systems were scarcely available in the region at the time, prompting the road trips to neighboring states.

The Kiwanis Water Saving Landscaping Demonstration Park on Alta Drive near Valley View Boulevard opened Oct. 22, 1980. As Las Vegas grew, so did the popularity of the park.

The Las Vegas Valley Water District eventually took control of it, expanded the facility and reopened it in 1990 as the Desert Demonstration Gardens. With the opening of the Las Vegas Springs Preserve a year ago, the demonstration gardens were incorporated into that facility and again expanded.

The Kiwanis Club's role in promoting water conservation in Southern Nevada was recognized Wednesday with the dedication of a plaza at the Springs Preserve.

But the recognition didn't come without a struggle, according to club members.

Before the Springs Preserve was to open, Kiwanis members J.R. "Buck" McElhone and Len Yelinek repeatedly called the Water District asking for a space in the preserve commemorating their efforts, but to no avail.

It wasn't until Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, attended a Kiwanis meeting in September 2007, that their request was taken seriously.

Former Kiwanis Club president Leo F. Borns recalled bringing to the meeting the plaque from the original water conservation park and placing it in front of the table where Mulroy sat.

Borns and Mulroy discussed the Kiwanis' desire to be recognized as part of the Springs Preserve, and by the end of the meeting Mulroy promised they would hear from someone.

The next day, Borns received a phone call from the Springs Preserve and plans for the Kiwanis Plaza were set in motion.

Kiwanis members collaborated with Jay Nichols, curator of the Springs Preserve, and the preserve's design team to create the Kiwanis Plaza, located in the Desert Living Center Gardens.

Borns, the architect for the original Water Conservation Park, said he never imagined their park would grow into what it is today. "But, you just never know where an idea is going to go."

At the dedication ceremonies for the Kiwanis Plaza on Wednesday, Mulroy said: "(The Springs Preserve) would never have happened the way it did had it not been for the Kiwanis Club and their water conservation park. Future generations will come to understand the contributions that the Kiwanis Club has made to this community."

Contact reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier