For the first time in a long time, cities around the region are looking upon North Las Vegas with some envy.
The valley municipality has such deep budgetary, economic and labor problems that it’s at risk of being taken over by the state. North Las Vegas can’t afford to operate its own jail. And the books are such a mess that new Mayor John Lee isn’t sure how much cash the city actually has on hand.
But on Friday, those worrisome problems gave way to a long-awaited celebration. The city opened Craig Ranch Regional Park, a 170-acre destination a decade in the making.
The opportunity to create a huge community gathering place that allows visitors to fully escape the surrounding urban environment was too great for the city to pass up. This is a transformative project, a quality-of-life rocket booster for area residents who’ve seen their home values devastated. Craig Ranch Regional Park, at Craig Road and Commerce Street, is central to the city’s comeback.
The $130 million park features a 65,000-square-foot skate park (one the country’s largest), a 5-acre dog park, playgrounds, climbing structures and picnic areas. Clark County contributed $6.5 million to complete a 7-acre amphitheater and pond. When that amphitheater project is finished, the city will convert 30 acres into soccer fields, the Review-Journal’s James DeHaven reported Saturday.
The project was possible because of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which allows local governments to use some of the proceeds from U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions of surplus Clark County acreage for parks and recreation facilities. Those funds were used to purchase Craig Ranch Golf Course for conversion into a regional park. Construction finally started about three years ago.
Now that the park is open, it creates a new expense for the city: an estimated $2.2 million in annual maintenance costs. A proposed entry fee appears to be off the table for now. Good. The last thing the City Council should do is put up a barrier that prevents struggling residents from enjoying this park.
If the city is serious about finding ways to stretch tax dollars and recover park costs, the council will outsource all park maintenance to the private-sector landscapers who take care of homeowner association parks and business complexes all over the valley. It’s crazy to make the public overpay for a service that can be done by a highly competitive, taxpaying industry. Competition keeps costs down. Unionized landscapers with pensions keep pushing costs up.
That issue aside, Craig Ranch Regional Park is a place all valley residents can enjoy. North Las Vegas can be proud of that.