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New visitor center planned at Sloan Canyon area in Henderson

The Bureau of Land Management will unveil its plans for a permanent visitor center at Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area during a public forum in Henderson on Wednesday.

Bureau officials will collect input on the proposed $8 million project during the forum, from 5-8 p.m. at the Levi Strauss Sky Harbor Distribution Center at 501 Executive Airport Drive.

“This is a chance for the public to weigh in on what they’d like to see in a visitor center,” said Jim Stanger, board president of the nonprofit advocacy group Friends of Sloan Canyon, which looks after the conservation area.

The 48,438-acre conservation area at the southern edge of Henderson was established by Congress in 2002, but a paved access road and a temporary visitor contact station at the site weren’t completed until 2016.

inline-smallA rendering shows proposed improvements to the main access point for Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area at the southern edge of Henderson. Bureau of Land Management

The new center will include an indoor space and a small outdoor exhibit and amphitheater area, along with trails, restrooms, picnic tables and overlooks, according to a diagram provided by the BLM.

“This is a good thing,” said Stanger. “It’s time to be proactive and start educating people on the cultural resources and the NCA as a whole.”

For centuries, American Indian hunters stalked bighorn sheep and carved messages among the cliffs and monsoon watering holes of the north McCullough Range. In one narrow slot, now known as Petroglyph Canyon, researchers have cataloged about 1,700 symbols etched in the rock.

The conservation area was set aside to preserve those ancient hunting grounds and the wildlife there.

The BLM has more than enough money to pay for the new facilities.

When the conservation area was created, lawmakers seeded it with $63 million from the sale of 480 acres of public land at the southern edge of Henderson. Nearly all of that money remains in an interest-bearing endowment fund, even after more than $10 million was spent on the access road, trails, signs, studies and planning documents over the past 16 years.

Stanger said construction could begin on the visitor center in the spring.

The BLM is also considering new approaches to “managing access” to Petroglyph Canyon by offering more ranger-led group hikes to the site, he said.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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