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Spring Mountain Ranch water play days attract locals

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park interpreter David Low is determined to battle a condition he finds all too common among local children.

"Outdoor deficit disorder weighs very heavily on my mind — the idea that kids don't come outdoors," he said. " I want to give kids a reason to come outside."

Water on the Meadow, a weekly water play day at Spring Mountain Ranch, is only one of Low's prescriptions for outdoor fun.

Summer Saturdays and some Sundays, the ranch has welcomed families to run in the sprinklers and glide along a flat water side from 1 to 3 p.m.

Playing in the water on a lawn may be common for kids in many climates, but for Las Vegas families, the simple summer pleasure is a unique treat.

"This is part of a long-term family strategy that we've got going on here at Spring Mountain Ranch," Low said. "Our park manager has looked really hard at what this park has to offer. We've got three things that are in precious short supply in Las Vegas: We've got grass, we've got water, and we've got shade. And shade is just a profoundly precious commodity here."

Low said more trees are being planted to add to the shade.

"In 20 years' time, there will be twice as much shade here as there is right now," he said. "This is going to be your shady oasis just outside of town."

With temperatures at least 10 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas Valley and with a tree-lined meadow, the park is already a draw for visitors. But Low hopes events such as Water on the Meadow draw more and give locals a reason to visit more than once.

"It's honestly a reaction to the single most commonly heard phrase in our visitors center, which is, 'I've lived here for 30 years and had no idea this was here. I've been going to Bonnie Springs and Red Rock Canyon and never knew this was here.' That just broke my heart. We're trying to get children's programs started so that parents will bring their kids out here, and hopefully, those kids will remember when they're adults, and it will become a family tradition."

While the event may seem like a water waster, Low said it's not as bad as it appears. He reasons that they have to water the meadow anyway, so why not invite people to enjoy it?

A minimal amount of water is emitted from rotating sprinklers onto a plastic custom-crafted horizontal water slide. A few squirts of baby shampoo increase rider speed.

"This new material is pretty slippery on its own, but it really does help them fly when you put down the baby shampoo," Low said.

Kids weren't the only ones zipping down the meadow during a July 25 event. Fathers such as John Griffin were quick to join the fun.

"I want them to get involved and kind of explore and have fun, and If I don't do it, I don't think they'll do it," he said.

Gianfranco Seminario found out about the event on Facebook and was quick to spread the word.

"I've already done it, like, two times," he said. "I sent a message to a lot of people on Facebook, and they didn't respond. But once they see the pictures … I'll definitely recommend it."

Low recommends residents follow the park's Facebook page for news about upcoming events.

Other programs include weekly yoga classes in the meadow, expanded night hikes, dutch oven cooking classes, Civil War history events and tours of the historic ranch house.

Low uses Water on the Meadow events as an opportunity to teach visitors about water conservation. Most weeks, a representative from the Southern Nevada Water Authority is available to hand out pamphlets and talk about water conservation programs. And when the slide line gets long, Low sets up a mid-line table where he quizzes young visitors on Las Vegas water issues.

"Where does the water in Las Vegas come from?" he asked. The correct answer is Lake Mead.

"Where does the water at Spring Mountain Ranch come from?" he followed up.

"It comes from springs that come up right out of the ground," Low said. "We have a whole bunch of springs in the canyon back there where water just comes out. We have different water than Lake Mead, and that's the water that we're using today.

Water authority representative Jared Bilberry was handing out pamphlets and chatting with visitors July 25. He said he was among residents who had driven past Spring Mountain Ranch without noticing it.

"I never even knew this was here," he said.

Over the summer, Bilberry has seen crowds grow thanks to programs such as Water on the Meadow.

"The first week was small — maybe only had about 200 — but it's grown every week. This has been the biggest crowd I've seen. And I guess it's going to continue to grow."

Water on the Meadow is slated to continue from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16, 22 and 30.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 6375 state Route 159, is about 10 miles west of the 215 Beltway. Most activities, including Water on the Meadow, are free with paid admission, which is $7 per car for Nevada residents and $9 for others. Visit parks.nv.gov/parks/spring-mountain-ranch-state-park.

— To reach View contributing reporter Ginger Meurer, email gmeurer@viewnews.com. Find her on Twitter: @gingermmm.

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