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Tule Springs moniker evokes park's earlier days


Things have been quiet for the Protectors of Tule Springs lately while most of their lobbying efforts are stalled because of the election, but they hope that will drastically change shortly.

Jill DeStefano, founder of the group, said since legislation was introduced to create the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in June in the U.S. Senate and House, she's optimistic that it will come up for a vote during Congress' lame duck session after the election.

Concerned after she learned about the environmental impact study on the land behind her house after moving to Sun City Aliante in July 2006, DeStefano said she wanted to protect the fossils she learned about and prevent the area from being turned over for development by the Bureau of Land Management.

In 2008, the group collected more than 10,000 signatures to pressure legislatures to turn the area into a national monument, maintained by the National Park Service. She said she's thrilled that the legislation might finally come up for vote in a month or two.

But where does Tule Springs end and Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs begin? DeStefano said it's all Tule Springs as far as she's concerned. The area her group is concerned with reaches across the entire Upper Las Vegas Wash area that paleontologists pinpointed as fossil-rich during the 1962 Big Dig. During the dig, a team of scientists chronicled by National Geographic worked at the site for four months and bulldozed two mile-deep trenches to study the fossils. DeStefano said she often hikes to look at the bones sticking out of the ground.

Community activist Terri Robertson handed the reins over to DeStefano a few years ago, Robertson said. Passionate about the area, Robertson researched Tule Springs' history and discovered that it comes from the Aztec words "tullin" or "tollin," which means a group of plants, including cattails, that grew in the area.

Indians and pioneers used the area as a stopping point while crossing the valley because of its water source. John Herbert Nay, the first non-American Indian to file a water right to Tule Springs, built an adobe hut between 1914 and 1918 but sold the land to Gilbert Hefner for $2,100 in 1928 and moved to California.

In 1941, Prosper Jacob Goumond began working the land into a ranch that he used to take advantage of Nevada's divorce laws and target prospective divorcees. The ranch accommodated between 10 and 12 people waiting out the state's six-week residency requirement for divorce.

The ranch is part of the smaller park area, now known as Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs. It was first designated a park when the city bought it in 1964, only to be renamed Floyd Lamb State Park when the state took control in 1977.

Robertson said that since that first name change, there has been a movement to change it back to Tule Springs.

"They (city council members) thought they were buying Tule Springs Park and got the deed to Floyd Lamb Park instead," Robertson said about the second exchange.

"We've done everything - we signed petitions and we've never been able to do it."

When the park was transferred back to the city in 2007, the name was changed to Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs after pressure from Ward 6 Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross.

Ross said that while growing up, he always referred to the park as Tule Springs, so he lobbied lawmakers in Carson City in 2007 to add the original name back to the name of controversial former Nevada state Sen . Floyd Lamb.

He said that since then, he hasn't given it much more thought and doesn't plan to try to drop "Floyd Lamb" from the title because he has not approached by residents about it.

"I think it's a pretty good mix of Lamb history and Tule Springs history," Ross said.

Robertson said she still wishes it was just Tule Springs.

DeStefano said she's less concerned about the origins of the name and more focused on the remains of history that are still there : the fossils. Remains that have been found in the area include mammoths, bison, horses, camels, giant sloths and the giant North American lion. The area is known in the scientific world as one of the best examples of Pleistocene paleontologic sites on the western side of the continent.

From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Sun City Aliante Clubhouse, 7390 Aliante Parkway, North Las Vegas, DeStefano's group plans to host its first formal meeting to discuss membership dues and legislative updates.

"It's amazing how much we've been talking to people for six years and how many people still don't know about it," DeStefano said.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Laura Phelps at lphelps@viewnews.com or 702-477-3839.