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Money to create state parks gets first OK in Nevada Legislature

Updated May 11, 2017 - 1:48 pm

CARSON CITY — A major funding boost for Nevada’s state park system sought by Gov. Brian Sandoval — including the creation of new state parks at Tule Springs in Las Vegas — won approval Thursday from a legislative budget subcommittee.

The Explore Your Nevada Initiative, directing $13.2 million in state general funds to the state park system, was approved by a Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee. Another $1.2 million in federal funds is part of the initiative.

Of the total, $3.5 million in general funds would be spent on one-time expenses for park improvements.

Sandoval’s initiative would create the Walker River State Recreation Area in Lyon County and Tule Springs State Park in North Las Vegas.

The proposal would provide $1.3 million over two years for the Tule Springs park, which is on existing state land. The 315-acre park would be adjacent to the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

Walker River

The new Walker River State Recreation Area would receive $4.7 million in ongoing funding to be established on 12,000 acres of ranch land now held by the Flying M, Pitchfork and Rafter 7 ranches that would be donated to the state.

The park on the East Fork of the Walker River in Lyon County will open up access to 28 miles of river corridor, some of which is prime fishing habitat.

The money will fund 12 new positions and start up costs for picnic tables, toilets and other needs. Another $2 million in “one-shot” general fund spending would go to the construction of cabins and a campground. The park would also get the $1.2 million in federal funds.

Nearly $8 million of the total will go to the new Walker park over the next 2 years.

The Nevada State Parks Division maintains a system of 23 parks, recreation areas and historic sites.

While there was strong support for the new Walker River park from lawmakers on the subcommittee, Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas, said most of her constituents are unlikely to visit the site. The Legislature needs to make further park investments in Southern Nevada as well, she said.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said he developed an appreciation for the outdoors during his 10 years in northern Nevada. The first fish he ever caught was on the Walker River, he said.

Frierson fessed up on his fish story, however, saying it actually got off the hook before he could reel it in.

While there are needs statewide, Frierson said the investment in the new Tule Springs park is a good start.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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