The big news at North Las Vegas’ Parks and Recreation department these days hasn’t yet gone public.
Craig Ranch Regional Park, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Henley’s magnum opus, three years in the works, isn’t scheduled to open to visitors until Nevada Day, a month later than expected.
That hasn’t kept the former golf course out of the headlines or away from the prying eyes of city council members, who still have to find a way to pay for an estimated $2.2 million in annual maintenance costs.
For the most part, Henley has welcomed the extra attention, telling city leaders last month that he’s already offered dozens of sneak peeks to media and city employees but hasn’t yet gotten sick of taking someone out for a preview tour.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Henley said at an Aug. 21 City Council meeting. “Everybody that’s seen the parked and touched it wants to come back and give something back to it.
“This is going to be a real source of community pride for North Las Vegas and the region. We’re very proud of it.”
There are 32 other city-run parks in North Las Vegas, but the 170-acre park set to debut Oct. 25 has loomed larger than its peers since City Council members first embraced the $130 million undertaking in 2010.
Henley expects that Craig Ranch — with its 65,000-square-foot skatepark, four civic plazas and two planned amphitheaters — will continue to serve as a major parks department focal point, but longtime Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member Ken Kraft hopes it won’t overshadow the city’s older public spaces.
For Kraft, the city’s other parks still have a lot to offer, including plenty that residents might have missed.
Maybe the best example, he said, is Willie McCool Regional Park.
The park, a thin, 160-acre strip of sand and pavement north of Horse Road, is part-time home to two model airplane hobbyist groups and dozens of amateur gas-, electric- and battery-powered airplane pilots.
Some of the plastic and poly-fiber models soaring above McCool are perfect scale replicas of biplanes, props and Cold War-era jet fighters. Others have 6-foot wingspans and cost as much as $60,000.
All are loud — lawnmower engine-loud, according to neighbors.
Kraft suspects that’s why there are only two such parks in the Las Vegas Valley but said he couldn’t be more proud to have one in his neck of the woods.
“It’s probably one of the more unique things we have in the city, parks or otherwise,” Kraft said. “It’s not been without controversy: Some people say they fly their aircraft down the middle of the road, and we had to, at one point, create an advisory group specifically to deal with the noise.
“But I think the bottom line is that people love it. … So even thinking about closing it down would have created a ton of feedback.”
This past year, Kraft found himself rallying around a second park novelty: Frisbee golf.
The city, he said, has a ready-made home for lucrative Frisbee golf tournaments just off the Las Vegas Beltway at city-managed Aliante Golf Course, 3100 Elkhorn Road.
Kraft hopes City Council members will tackle the question of opening the course to Frisbee golfers this month.
Once it hits the agenda, Kraft plans to be there. It would be a major loss, he said, to underestimate the value of a new park.
“I don’t see how this is a losing proposition from an incremental revenue perspective,” Kraft said. “You could rent out the golf carts, (and) you could make money on tournament concessions.
“Even if it only brings in $200,000 a year, that’s something, because it would attract people and attention to the city. That’s part of what good parks do.”
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at email@example.com or 702-477-3839.